Owerton Challenge I114, Star Grean E004, ‘Blue Bottle Donkey’

 

 

Owerton Challenge Issue 114

Star Grean Episode 004

Written March 18, 2017

Posted July 16, 2017

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 004, ‘Blue Donkey Bottle’

 

Challenge: Issue 114

  • Words:
    • Blue
    • Donkey
    • Bottle 
  • Contributor:
    • Brian Hill
    • High Prairie, Alberta

Star Grean 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old Veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, which obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 003, ‘Green Pheasant Guitar‘ on 216:03:21:10:15

Pilot Levan becomes Captain Levan, now owning the Star Grean which is a Class III Exploration Stardrive ship. Levan puts together his crew; during this process, he is assaulted and blackmailed. Levan and his crew resolve the situation, while Levan submits to a Purist to get a lucrative coveted government contract. He is nearly killed by the Black Cat Circle before the crew can get away on their first flight with the Star Grean on their journey to the Tunda system. But where are they now?

We now continue in Episode 004, ‘Blue Bottle Donkey‘ on 216:04:27:13:05 with:

The command deck alarms are blaring loudly, a mixture of confusing klaxons and alarms, as Captain Levan has the Star Grean flipped in a shift for full deceleration with all three Class B ion drives in over production. All fifteen of the fusion reactor are also on full production output to keep all systems running and powering the three ion drives. He even has the three solar cell sails deployed to garner as much power as they can supply; he’s trying to get power into the depleted accumulators to charge up their reserves, in case they have need to use the laser again. He has given Kendra orders to keep the weapon charged up to full power, and for the gunner to keep her wits about her with her sharp eyes on the look out for any obstacles or any approaching aggressive craft.

Then a dreaded klaxon sounds as Levan finds his mind is starting to blur and he’s having trouble focusing. Looking over to Talla he asks, slurring his speech, “Is that what I think it is?”

Without answering, Talla awkwardly tries to hurry as he unlatches his seat straps and fumbles as he grabs his standard repair kit. Looking around the command deck, the engineer curses, slurring, “Where are you?”

Then, spotting a warping of the foreceiling panel, he hits an emergency switch on the engineering panel controls, neutralizing the command deck gravitation. Pushing off hard from the deck, he launches himself toward the warped panel in the ceiling with awkward control as he tumbles. Bracing himself, he quickly pulls free the ceiling panel as he mutters, “There you are.”

Quickly and only somewhat efficiently, he opens his repair kit and haphazardly releases a set of assorted patches from a container. Setting out a three-centimeter plastisteel patch over the hull leak, which is a hole less than half-a-millimetre in size, he seals the puncture which is draining their air and is on the way to killing the command crew.

Only partially relieved, hoping that it’s the only hole, he gathers all his gear and places it carefully back in the repair kit. He returns to his seat and buckles in again, placing his kit in the receptacle he resets the command deck’s gravity control. The ceiling panel crashes to the deck.

Watching his monitors like a Gaerian hawk hunting its prey, he reports, “That appears to be the only puncture on the command deck. There are two crew quarter cabins voided, with gaping punctures: yours and engineer Lester’s. As well, the engineering deck has two huge holes in the hull. Lester and Tomar have reported, saying they were in space survival suits when the deck voided. They’re busy repairing the hull so that they can get the deck back onto the control network. Fuel tank three took two direct hits, rupturing it. We’ll have to repair the tank as well. But, so far, it has blue bottled with ice stopping the leaking … 3rd Purist Frena, you’re required on the central deck, as we have injured marines.”

Levan sighs, as he’s relieved with the air volume returning to the command deck. It could have been worse; they could be wearing rocks or ice inside the hull. Out of the ten deck sections of the Star Grean, they only suffered from a few hull ruptures that breached a few sections of three decks. This ship is a true blue bottle donkey.

Turning to Yar, “Where the gods are we, Yar?”

Shaking his head, Yar replies, “Most of the Astronav system was knocked offline during that first strike. I’m doing what I can to figure out where we are with the equipment that we still have. It may take ten or more hours to get our bearings so that I can find our location.”

Coughing, Levan is recovering his senses and body control, and his brain is slowly regaining oxygen. Levan looks around and shaking his head, he says in wonder, “We’re alive, and we still have our drives, air, and manoeuvring. We have hope, for now.”

…..

Quickly, 3rd Purist Frena puts on her space survival suit to traverse the ship’s decks. She then rushes through the ship’s decks to reach the central deck – the huge deck four. Arriving at the marine’s muster station, she finds Horrace has a ceiling’s crossbeam resting on his chest. Motioning to the other two marines, she says, “Give me a hand, and when I ask, move the beam off of him.” She picks up the deck’s first aid trauma pack. Kneeling by the marine’s Starfall jump couch, she begins assessing his injuries. Finding it is safe to move the crossbeam, she motions to the other two to remove the plastisteel support structure from his chest, while she looks up at the ceiling and the huge dent where the support should be. She’s surprised that the rock that hit didn’t breach through the duro-ceramic armour and then rupture the hull, voiding this section and killing these men. They were lucky that the support snapped free, but the duro-ceramic deflected the asteroid, and that the duro-ceramic armour held enough to stop the breach of the inner hull.

Heaving hard on a free end of the beam, the two male marines, who are taller and huskier than typical males, being nearly as large as the humar females, slowly lift and gradually jimmy the end of the beam around and away, past Horrace’s feet. They grunt as they drop the structure with a resounding thud onto the deck’s floor.

Horrace gasps suddenly as the beam is being lifted from his chest, but he remains unconscious. Frena further assesses him using her biomed scanner, finding that he has many internal damages and is in desperate need of immediate surgery. She injects the marine with a general tranquillizer to relax him and gives him a shot of biomed stim to begin the healing. She’s trying to stop as much of the internal bleeding as possible.

Standing sharply, Frena orders the two marines to fetch the deck’s med stretcher and to get Horrace over to the surgery while she prepares to perform surgery.

Triggering the nearby com panel switch to reach the command deck, Frena contacts Levan. “Captain Leven, this is 3rd Purist Frena, our 3rd Grade Spaceman, 1st Class Marine Private Horrace has had his chest crushed, resulting in some broken ribs, internal lung injuries, artery and vein damages, as well as other damages. I’ll be in surgery for some time; don’t be calling for me.”

Levan signals back. “Understood, do your best. I know we’re not a hospital with biomed tables and the right medbed equipment to heal major injuries. I know you’re not a highly experienced surgeon, but you are a trained surgeon. I have faith in you 3rd Purist. If he can be saved, you’ll do it.”

…..

With most of the command deck alarms are under control, and 80% of full air volume has been returned, Levan can now focus on the Star Grean’s deceleration flight path. He brings up the telescopes’ view on his monitors, aiming them ahead of the ship. He scans as far as he can, spotting two planet-size objects; they’re roughly in the path he has set the ship on, as he’s aiming for the star, Tunda. The two planets are over forty AU or more away and are in a rough line with the ship’s flight path with the system’s star which is nearly eighty AU away by his estimates through the imaging. The first planet will pass above and to the right of them if they avoid it. Calculating their trajectory and their velocity, as well as their deceleration, Levan determines they’ll pass by the first planet early tomorrow.

Looking around the command deck, Levan wonders what might have happened if they had hit a rock or ice ball head on, instead of glancing off of them? He had managed to keep them going on an even and straight horizon, holding onto a good path, even while having objects bouncing off the ship while moving at velocities at just around twenty AU per hour. Finding it all maddening, he shudders as he tries not to consider their odds. Yeah, they’re alive, but what are the full damages? It is the decimeter thick duro-ceramic hull that saved them. How much repairing will the ship and armour need?

How is his crew going to hold out on this trip? He wonders if they can get back to territory space, as they need the Astronav to find their way back. With the Astronav damaged, they’re stuck out here. Without knowing where they are, they can’t target their communication gear to call for help. What a fine pickle this is turning out to be.

“Yar, you have ten hours to find our location. Talla get the hull patched, and then repair the Astronav,” orders Levan. As Levan stares firmly at his monitor, he’s not feeling as confident as he’s presenting.

As they progress forward, the alarms are being silenced, one by one, with Talla confirming each of their purposes and assessing the rank of the immediacy of each situation, until he’s silences all klaxons and alarms. Then, dressing in his work spacesuit, he gathers his gear and proceeds outside for the hull repairs.

…..

Alone on the command deck with the Liorian geobioscientist, Levan brings himself to ask Kni, “How well are you able to read and understand the engineering monitors?”

In the low deck lighting, the dark hair and dark complexion of the Liorian ancestry of Kni makes him hard see, which Levan finds difficult to focus on. Still, Levan notes Kni glance over at the engineering station. With Talla outside patching the hull over Levan’s quarters, the geobioscientist questions his own abilities. He’s only the communications officer when on the command deck, and the team’s geobioscientist when not on the com deck. Levan observes Kni shake his head slowly.

There is little hatred lost between the Liorian-race male and the Veran-race captain. Levan,  the green-eyed, blonde-haired, Veran male captain sighs and says, “You wanted to challenge yourself Kni. Against 3rd Purist Frena’s judgement, I took a chance bringing you on with the crew. Don’t make me look bad. Now, move over there and figure out how much air we lost. And, gather whatever information you can that you think could be valuable to me.”

Hesitating several seconds, Kni watches Levan. Then he looks over at the bank of engineering station monitors. Resigned to a new duty, he slowly unbuckles and stumbles over to the engineering post, while saying, “Okay, but don’t ask me to operate anything.”

“Hey, you’ll have to learn. I can show you a few things, like some of the basics, but your best teachers are the engineers, especially Senior Engineer Talla.” Levan rapidly unbuckles and ambles over to stand with Kni at the engineering monitors.

Levan points to each monitor or control, showing Kni the proper operation of the appropriate controls. Levan says as he demonstrates, “These are the deck air monitors, fuel monitors, water monitors, etc. Here is the volume of air remaining, and this is our full capacity indicators. With a quick calculation, it shows us that we’ve lost about thirteen percent of our air volume. We’ll have to replace at least half of that, for the safety of the twelve of us on board. I’d be comfortable with us topping up to at least ninety percent capacity. I’d feel even better with ninety-five percent maximum air volume. By the looks of the sensors on fuel tank three, we lost over one-hundred-and-four litres of fuel. That’s about ten percent of the fuel in that tank. Fortunately, we have eight other tanks with a thousand litres each and one with 566 litres. You see how this all works?”

Impressed by all this knowledge and technology, Kni is still confused. With narrowed lip and brows, Kni turns to Levan, asking, “How do you know all of this? Where do you learn it all?”

Smiling, while tapping Kni’s shoulder, Levan replies. “I spent five Terms in Corporate University studying for my Stardrive command Captain and pilot’s license. I was at the top of my class every Term, and in the last two terms, I received the sole System Star Award at the University – an award given for excellence to only the highest calibre of pilots. But because I am a male, the University training and the awards means shit when trying to get a job. I received a big break when grandma Velma was killed in the corporate duel, and then with my receiving the Star Grean, that was a disguised blessing of fates … though, I think we scratched the paint in this last jump.”

Laughing at Levan’s humour, Kni, with his dark eyes glistening, stares at Levan and tries to draw a clear even breath as he stops laughing. With his watering eyes returning to a narrower focus, Kni stutters, “You earned … the … friggin System Star Award … twice? That’s the highest award a pilot can get, even for practical experienced pilots. You’re shitting me.”

Nodding shallowly, Levan winks, answering. “Yes, Kni, I did … twice.”

Offering his hand to shake, Kni beams a wide grin, “That is so right. I’ll follow you anywhere. Your flying through those rocks isn’t a mystery now. You could’ve done it blind.”

Laughing tightly, Levan answers with a slight sarcasm. “I basically was doing it blindly. I just had the video system and telescope monitors. The damn radar and scanners were offline.”

Gripping Levan’s hand even tighter, the vigorous handshake with Levan is going overboard. Kni’s grin is stretching the farthest his face can possibly grin.

Finally releasing the handshake, Levan says, “You strive to be as good a geobioscientist and shipmate as I’m a pilot, and I’ll be proud to know you.”

Nodding enigmatically, Kni responds, “Right, I’ll get on it.”

216:04:27:18:16

With Talla still trying to fix the hull breach of Levan’s cabin, Levan assigns the two junior engineers, Tomar and Lester, to repair fuel tank three after they finish repairs of the engineering deck and have all the engineering systems back on the network. Levan is glad that he found these two, as they have more Stardrive experience than any ten system ship engineers have on any combination of ships. They’re showing their skills and professionalism, with no obvious anxiety or fear as a result of the bad Starfall jump. They went right to work and had taken the proper precautions for the jump.

They had been smart to don space survival suits, which saved both their lives when engineering took a hit so hard that it opened up like a ration can, immediately voiding all its air. The two were strapped in their jump couches, which also saved their lives, and they remained strapped in until Talla gave the all clear that they were safe to move. Then, clearing it with Talla, they started repairs on engineering deck’s hull before doing the internal repairs, getting atmosphere to the deck, to make working on the deck easier.

If they were scared, they kept it to themselves. Their repairs are impeccable and their times are unimpeachable. Working together as a team, they could beat any other engineering team’s time.

The two engineers suit up in work spacesuits, and taking their repair kits, they walk the hull to access the ice bulge on the outer hull of tank three. They begin the process of welding plastisteel plates in place to patch the two ruptures of the tank, sealing the ice in place on the tank and creating an outer bottle on the tank’s ruptured area.

Working diligently, they finish the repairs on fuel tank three at about the same time as Talla begins to fill Levan’s cabin with air.

Levan assesses the results of all these activities and checks the readings on the various engineering sensors. He’s happy, knowing that only Lester’s room remains exposed to the void. Walking briskly to the surgery, Levan finds Frena is making Horrace comfortable on a medcouch. He asks her with curiosity, “How’d it go?”

Yawning, now exhausted after five hours of intense solo surgery, Frena answers, slurring her speech. “I had to open him up to seal ruptured vessels and repair broken bones. I’ve never seen so much damage before. He’ll be out of action for some time, probably on the medcouch for at least a week, and off duty for about a month. But I need sleep.”

Hugging a bloodied 3rd Purist, Levan answers her in a respectful tone. “Talla says we can sleep in our cabin safely now.”

Walking to the nearest com panel, Levan triggers the mic, broadcasting to all speaker monitors on all decks: “Hey all. Shut down for a four-hour rest shift. Sleep is my suggestion.”

A few cheers erupt, especially from the engineers, which echo through the Star Grean.

216:04:28:05:06

Looking at the monitor in front of him, Levan yawns again, harshly rubbing his blurry visioned eyes. The velocity reading is just under 6.9 AU per hour, and it’s tough going as he’s desperately trying to figure out what lays ahead of them.

His senior engineer, Talla, sent the junior engineers, Tomar and Lester, to seal Lester’s room so that the engineer can sleep in his own cabin again, and not in the mess hall on the central deck.

…..

After another two hours, the repairs are complete, and the engineers were able to fix most of the Astronav systems, along with the return of life support to his cabin after sealing Lester’s quarters. The two junior engineers are now making the many smaller necessary repairs.

Sitting firm in his couch on the command deck, looking at the monitors while Frena is sitting in the first mate’s seat, Levan has been muttering for about ten minutes. Finally, he asks in confusion. “Tell me again about the ranks of the church system and about the gods. I must have angered someone somewhere along the line.”

Looking over at Levan, 3rd Purist Frena laughs mirthfully. “If you’ve forgotten, we are the humar people, guided by three gods: the god of air, Irendal; the god of earth, Zorendal; and our space god, Rendfendal. The church is made up of the female priests, the Purists, who are organised in six ranks under our leaders, the Matriarchs, who are organised under the leadership of the three 13th Matriarchs. The six levels of Purists are set with the 6th Purists being the most senior and the lowest, the 1st, being the acolytes. Then, there are the male choirs and the female workers who are known as the Secon of the church. The entire church organisation is known as the Venkaer. Which reminds me that as soon as we can, you have a date with the three 13th Matriarchs, now that you are my companion.”

Closing his eyes and squeezing them tightly shut, Levan pales. Slowly opening his eyes again, he asks, “What do you mean? I have a date with the 13th Matriarchs? For what purpose?”

Winking gleefully, Frena replies all too happy. “Who do you think performs the marriage ceremonies for Purists of rank three or higher?”

Groaning, disheartened, Levan says, “I’ll be owing favours, right!”

Shaking her head in defiance, Frena quickly replies with a firm command, “No, my sweet male, I will be owing favours. They could care less about you. You have no value to the matriarchs.”

Checking their velocity again, Levan notes they’re at 6.2 AU per hour. With the full Astronav system running, he has pinpointed that the planet which is to their lower right at 14.9 AU away. And, there is a second body 12.1 AU past that above the Grean’s horizon.

He notes that the fuel leak lost a total 419 L of fuel from tank three, a loss that hopefully is minor for this journey.

…..

Talking with Talla, they agree that their final air readings are 81% remaining of maximum volume.

Levan asks Talla, “Can you rig something to convert fuel into air, to help bring us up to ninety percent?”

Calculating, thinking of possible jury rigs, Talla ponders this for a moment and then answers, “Lester and Tomar can rig two fuel converters to make air. It’ll be a slow process using a litre each per hour, producing about 135 cubic decimeters of air per litre of fuel. We need to replace about 140-thousand cubic decimeters of air that was lost.”

Shrugging half-hearted, Levan pats his console as he looks at the command monitors. He chuckles and then energetically amused, he asks, “You’ve heard of the blue bottle donkey, right Talla?”

Talla laughs, amused. “What spacer with experience hasn’t? That ship should have died and scuttled a thousand times before docking. The entire crew should have perished long before returning to her home system. She was attacked by aliens, pirates, and even her own navy, before docking at her home port. She lost half of her engines, but none of her crew. They docked planet side, against orders, with barely any fuel or life support left when they arrived at Dempsten docks. The ship was fired on all the way down by planetary defences during its landing. As the story goes, they say that her survival was by dues ex machina. But the city dwellers gave them a heroes greeting anyway when the crew exited the ship. Journalists hounded the lot for years.”

Levan looks at Talla, winking, he says, “Engineer Talla, I think we have a blue bottle donkey here with the Star Grean. I hope not, but we might.”

To be continued in Episode 005 on 216:04:28:06:08 

Theoretically safe now, and with the crew somewhat rested, they have to figure out – quietly of course – what to do next, and if they’re alone in this system. 

By Kenneth Shumaker 

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca inupress@inupress.ca and www.kennethshumaker.ca

 

All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted, the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

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About the author: Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight)

 

 

Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy genre author, as well as a non-fiction writer, with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress). Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs for many years. He now writes several serial short stories. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.

 

With an annual subscription from InUPress, you will receive our monthly delivery of ‘Notes from InUPress’ for C$12.99 annually. The notes, by Kenneth Shumaker, contain interesting information on writing and publishing and is published through Inevitable Unicorn Press.

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Join Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight) in his Dragoman Bloodgrue anthologies of serial short stories. ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ is the first of the episodes in the Dragoman Bloodgrue serial series. Read how Bloodgrue tests the patience of the gods’ resolve. Do the gods let the brave be fools? Is Bloodgrue brave or a fool? Follow Bloodgrue to see where his life’s path takes him. In ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ we are introduced to Apprentice Dragoman Bloodgrue as he begins his journey climbing the social ranks of Mount Oryn in North Docks, District 5.

 

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Enjoy Kenneth’s new intriguing fantasy novel ‘Laret’, released June 19, 2017. Enter the Darkness of Souls and journey with the Black Swans through the Web Shireward as they battle the invading armies of the god Tearmain. This captivating novel is available at the following:

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Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 004, ‘Blue Bottle Donkey’, of ‘Star Grean, but do you want to read more? Follow these links to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While at either of these, please join our free e-mail subscription lists, where you will also receive a gift when you sign up. Once you subscribe, you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, or InUPress and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently, it was a pdf containing an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

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thank you for reading ‘Star Grean’.

 

 

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We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

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Owerton Challenge I113, Star Grean E003, ‘Green Pheasant Guitar’

Issue 113

Episode 003

Date January 30, 2017

 

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 003, Green Pheasant Guitar

Challenge: Issue 003

  • Words: Green Pheasant Guitar
    • Green
    • Pheasant
    • Guitar
  • Contributor:
    • Donna Shumaker
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Star Grean

 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

 

In the previous episode 002 on 216:03:21:10:15

Pilot Levan officially becomes Captain Levan of the Star Grean. For the first time in his life, he is about to command a crew. However, the Black Cat Circle decide that Levan owes them money. The Black Cat Circle beat the air out of Levan, make threats of death, and demand one million credits.

3rd Purist Frena discovers things about Levan that no Humar Empire female should know.

 

We now continue in Episode 003 on 216:03:23:10:22 with:

216:03:23:10:22

Levan anxiously looks at his chroncrom again as the office door opens and the director’s assistant summons them in less than politely.

Levan watches on the sly to make sure 3rd Purist Frena keeps her cool. They desperately need this government contract, to establish their reputation and earn valuable status as a corporation. She can’t blow this meeting or crash the presentation. The two of them practised over the presentation by rehearsing for five hours, in between interviewing recruits. She seems to be calm and collected.

Together, with Frena in the lead, they enter the government bureau director’s spacious office. From Velma’s descriptions, Levan had vividly imagined how the space would appear. But this space is even more palatial than his imagination allowed, even more spacious than his apartment. The two of them march across the twenty feet from the door to the chairs on this side of the desk, noiselessly walking on the sound-deadening furs. Arriving at the chairs, Levan kneels, while Frena simply bows, and they wait without moving to be acknowledged.

The young director hums an idle tune, and then she says, “Yes! Yes! Sit, both of you. I received your file 3rd Purist. Everything is in order. Your ship, the Star Grean, qualifies, as does your corporation. 3rd Purist, you may make your presentation.”

Levan sits on the soulless hard metal chair set behind Frena’s soft cushioned seat, as Frena takes her comfortable chair.

Frena works through the half-hour presentation with great diligence, stating the dry facts about the Star Grean, the intended route to the Tunda system, and the crew that has been hired so far, using the altered new identity as Talla the engineer, for engineer Scall, which Levan garnered from his contact.

Then, after the professionally presented presentation, Frena falls silent, and both Flind representatives bow and wait silently for the director to speak.

They only have to wait a minute while Derec enters notes into her console. She addresses Frena, saying, “Well, that was well done. I get so many presentations with so much fluff and nonsense and promises, with so little in the way of facts. I like your presentation, with just facts and no promises or fluff. My question, though, involves the facts that your ship has never left drydock, and your crew has never flown together before. Why would Hazdal sponsor you?”

Levan clears his throat, and raises his hand, with his eyes looking down to the floor, waiting.

Derec sighs in annoyance, “Yes, boy?”

Levan asks in a soft manner. “May I address your question?”

Frena answers in a brisk tone. “He may speak on this, on my behalf.”

Derec groans, answering annoyed, “If you think you must.”

Not looking up, Levan replies, “Flind is not asking to be sponsored up front. Flind is asking to be acknowledged and paid, upon completion of the contract. Thus there is no risk for Hazdal Space Corporation. Does that work for you both?”

Frena answers in a dry manner. “This works for me.”

Without looking up, Levan is relieved, as a smile can be heard in Derec’s reply, “Under those conditions, I can award the amended contract, offering it to Flind Corporation.”

Butterflies erupt in Levan’s abdomen, but he doesn’t flinch or smile. They have an hour of contract ceremonies to get through yet, he can’t be seen to react, no matter how happy he is. Sneaking a quick glance at Frena, he sees that she too is stone cold emotionless. Good! But Levan can feel her elation in his soul. She’s emitting her elation at their success, to him, whether she knows it or not, and this is new to Levan. No female has ever Shared with him before; it’s so … so … elating, what other word is there? He feels her touch right to his soul. He imagines her water-blue eyes and blonde hair, her attractive fine sculpted face, her four-foot-eight-inch, hundred pound, or so body. She’s so majestic in appearance. He suddenly realises that he knows her age, from the contact Sharing; she’s thirty-four Terms, two Terms his junior. He tries drawing away, as he realises she feels an attraction to him. ‘No, we can’t! Crews can’t Share! It’s not viable, or proper.’ Levan tries blocking out Frena, and with some effort he succeeds. Breathing is difficult to maintain in even control, but he masters it.

216:03:23:16:55

The duo casually walk out of the Bureau’s office tower. Levan stops on the sidewalk before they climb into the Quickie Cab. He addresses Frena. “Purist, I know you were happy and elated with the presentation results. But may I ask you not to Share. It was unsettling, as I’ve never Shared before. Unless you mean to ask me to be your husband, please control your Sharing … Please.”

Turning to observe Levan, Frena’s expression is not neutral, her eyes gleam with moisture, while the corners of her mouth are downturned in sadness, and she asks, “My Sharing with you disturbs you, sweet Levan?”

Reading her disturbed sadness at being rejected, Levan hesitates. “It doesn’t disturb me, Purist, I wasn’t expecting it, I was unsettled by the newness. I’m sorry if I sadden you, I’m asking you not to do it again.”

Frena, also reading Levan’s composure and expression, responds, “It did disturb you, and you’re trying to be polite now, and not hurt my feelings. We’ll work it out, my friend.”

Shocked, Levan can’t answer. Frena called him a friend, and she meant it.

They climb into the Quickie Cab together and Frena keys in her address into the controls first, by habit. They drive into the middle-class housing district, mostly populated by female held households. Levan grumbles in envy at the manicured front lawns and courtyards of the luxury one and two-story fabricated houses, reserved for the elite of society. But he gains a bit of humbleness as the cab stops in front of a three-story shared dormitory. Out of spite, he asks, “How many do you share with?”

Frena answers haughtily, “Five of us sisters hold the lease on the building. Do you need a place?” She winks, knowing Levan holds an upper-middle-class apartment.

Levan watches her exit the cab as he wonders hazardously what she would be like as a partner. Shaking his head, he keys in his apartment building’s address into the cab’s control pad.

…..

Walking down the hallway, Levan can see a sliver of light coming from under his apartment door as he approaches. He notices the burnt security pad beside his door. Readying himself for a possible conflict, Levan slides open his door and ducks as a club swings over his head, initiated from inside the apartment and off to the side of the door. Going into full trained Grenar unarmed combat mode, he strikes out in reflex at the assailant, connecting with the assailant’s abdomen. Levan sees two other assailants rushing toward him. He mutters under a controlled breath. “Gods be damned.”

With the edge of his hand, Levan strikes the same man’s neck in a second attack, feeling the man’s throat break and seeing him grasp for his throat with both of his hands, unable to breathe.

Levan recognises the Black Cat Circle thugs from the safe house.

Running for the stairwell, but ducking into the short side hallway to the side before reaching the stairwell, he stops and waits for the first thug. Using a fierce toe-first martial kick to the groin of the man, the victim is doubled forward. Levan brings a knee to the man’s throat. Thus Levan disables the second of the three thugs.

The third thug hesitates and draws a longknife. He advances on Levan cautiously, sneering, he says, “We were just going to talk, to see why you double-crossed us. But now you’re a marked dead man, boy.”

Lightning quick, Levan does a scissor leap with both feet coming up, while one hand balances him on the floor. His right foot connects with the wrist of the hand holding the knife, his left foot connecting violently with the man’s jaw. Levan’s spacer boot crushes the assailant’s jaw with a loud smashing snap. The man goes down unconscious.

Quickly recovering, Levan retrieves the longknife, driving it into the hearts of both men to ensure they’re dead. Then, rapidly returning to his darkened apartment, he cautiously steps over the still gasping wounded man in the hallway. As Levan is stepping over the injured man, he drives the knife through the man’s eye into his brain, and Levan stirs the blade, ending the man’s suffering. Then, from his days long past, before the days of dealing with Velma, he uses as much skill as he can muster in silent walking. Levan enters his apartment without turning the lights on, knowing that at least one thug, possibly more, are in here.

Standing off to the side of the door, deep in the darkened shadows, adjusting his eyes to the darkness, Levan tries to spot any out of place shadows in the room. Scanning carefully, he notes one in the kitchen area, emanating from behind the central kitchen island, indicating that someone is crouched down on the other side. Also, Levan hears a disturbance from the storeroom and another out of place sound from the bedroom. So at least three more thugs are in the apartment. Bending down silently, Levan, as quietly as possible, takes off his boots and socks, and then his jacket, leaving them on the floor near the door. With only his short-sleeve, tight racing shirt and skin-tight pants on, Levan silently walks to the closest end of the island. Holding the longknife ready, he sneaks around the to the end opposite the crouching figure, and then leaps at him or her, in attack. Levan drives his knife into the person’s neck as the person fires their laser pistol. Their shot strikes Levan’s arm. The woman dies before she can fire a second shot.

In extreme pain, Levan tries not to curse out loud. Closing his eyes briefly from the pain, he grits his teeth with his lips sealed tight. Sweat starts to bead on his face. Blood starts trickling from the burn on his arm. Counting to ten, Levan listens carefully, and he hears the rustling of jockeying for position of three people: two in the storage room, one in the bedroom. ‘Damn the gods, where’s security when I need them?

Picking up the laser pistol, Levan checks the setting; it’s set on the maximum power fire setting, that means there are three shots left. He dials the power setting down, so he has four shots so he can miss once.

Pulling the longknife out of the dead woman’s neck, Levan wonders how the law and government are going to judge him for killing a woman? He may just have to abandon his apartment. He should, right now! But damn it, they’ll all just come looking for him. He has to finish the Black Cat Circle thugs here, before scramming … Damn the arm hurts! His eyes water from the pain, blurring his vision. As he tries to wipe the tears away, all he manages to do is smear some of the woman’s blood across his eyes and cheeks. Using the short sleeves of his shirt, he tries to wipe away the tears again, causing himself more pain when he moves his wounded arm. He curses softly, “Damn!”

Rising enough to peer over the counter, he looks eye-to-eye with one of the thugs, who responds by springing over the counter at him. Levan has enough time to raise and fire the laser point blank into the face of the man. The laser beam sears right through the man’s eye and into his brain, ending with the man sprawling out on top of Levan, dead.

Quickly pushing the corpse off himself, as another attacker lunges for Levan, Levan has enough time to bring the longknife to bear in front of himself, gutting the man, wounding him, allowing the man to use his own dagger to cut into Levan’s leg, then neck. Levan quickly positions and fires the laser pistol into the man’s head, through his ear, at point-blank range, frying his brain, killing him.

Bleeding more from his arm wound and from the stab to his leg and neck, Levan triggers the emergency call on his chroncrom, ‘Let the chips fall where they may, to the damn with it!

Levan limps toward the bedroom not trying to be silent. Levan calls out, “I know you’re in the bedroom. I’m coming for you. The rest are all dead. Surrender, and you’ll live, hide or attack, and you’ll die.”

Silence is the result as Levan, in a rush, noisily opens the door and quickly flicks the light switch. Levan ducks rapidly to the side just inside the room of the door, as a firearm shot goes off. The bullet strikes the door jamb, in line where his head had been. Levan fires the last two laser shots blindly into the area where the firearm shot came from. A woman’s screech is heard as she is wounded. She fires a second shot at Levan as he runs toward her. Levan drops the laser pistol and brings the longknife to full bearing. He feels the fourth bullet bite into his shoulder, and the fifth bullet bites into his ribs as he drives the knife into her chest. He blacks out.

216:03:26:16:35

Hearing Frena pray, Levan ponders if she is praying the death prayer and if the prayer is for him. The world is all in images of reds and greys as he slowly and weakly opens his eyes. His mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton, as he simply asks, “Water?” He smells strong sulphurs as well.

Gasping and grabbing Levan’s hand, Frena utters, “Thank Rendfendal. Levan the machines did their job, you lived. Thank you, thank you … thank the gods!”

She rapidly offers Levan a sippy cup with a long straw, containing a briny-sweet water mixture.

He sips a few mouthfuls, having a hard time swallowing the liquid. He realises that his throat was injured, resulting in his difficulty with swallowing.

He looks at the reddish-grey image of the holy woman, as she starts to visually clear. Now that his mouth is somewhat hydrated, Levan speaks carefully as he asks, “How many did I get?”

Laughing and crying at the same time, Frena kisses Levan’s hand, and then says, “Hero of the building … you beat two armed women and five men. The law still wants to know how you did it and survived. The medics got to your apartment just in time to keep you from dying. They got the freezefield on to you to stop your biosystems, and then they had just enough time to get you to the hospital so the surgeons could use the biometric surgery table to patch you before reviving you from the field. They had to fully fill your blood supply, almost. You had almost completely bled out. They pulled three bullets out of you and fixed a couple dagger wounds and a laser burn. You really shouldn’t be living; you’ll live a life of pain memorys. But you’ll live. They say it takes awhile to recover from the freezefield; you just came out of it two hours ago, after ten hours of surgery. Do you want me to leave?”

Levan chuckles, and then dares to say, “Hold my hand, sit down and shut-up.” Then he fades out again, going into freezefield after-coma for roughly another twenty hours.

Frena sits holding his hand, sometimes sleeping in the chair, only letting go of his hand to eat and use the restroom. Until eventually, she goes for an hour-long walk at the ten-hour mark, and then to perform her service prayers after that. But, she soon returns to Levan, attempting to provide him with comfort while the machines heal him, feed him, and remove toxins and wastes from his body, while he remains in the freezefield after-coma.

The other crew members come, visit with Frena, and leave.

Yar lets Frena know that Levan’s apartment has been repaired and cleaned, and that the security panel has been repaired as well.

216:03:27:17:27

Levan, weak bodied, sits up in bed and watches the sleeping form of the 3rd Purist. Tempted to shout ‘fire’, he restrains himself. Besides, it would take more effort than he has the energy for right now. Levan eats the strange pudding the orderly left for him when Levan told the man that he is hungry. The pudding has the texture of ten-day rain mud on the Old Morn River bank, and the pudding smells as appealing, but it tastes quite good, like ripe Oragan fruit when it’s in season: fruity, sweet and salty.

Licking his two fingers as he wipes out all the residue from the pudding container, Levan grins as he spots Frena eyeing him. He shrugs and says, “What? I’m damn hungry, Purist.”

She laughs and replies, “Then, it’s time to take you out of here and home.”

He grins, feeling mischievous, “Your home or mine?”

She winks. “Your choice, but don’t tease.”

Levan is stunned yet again, by how the 3rd Purist ‘plays’ with him, and the freedoms that she allows him. Levan is finding himself attaching to her more than he consciously wants to. He doesn’t understand this Purist. She is not like any woman or holy Purist he’s encountered before, and this confuses him.

He decides, “I think it’s best that I go home to my place.”

He watches in wonder, as she actually looks disappointed. Her eyes droop as do the corners of her mouth, though only slightly, as if she’s trying to hide her disappointment. Levan is feeling scared now, as he surmises that this Purist has feelings for him. He asks, “Did you sit here with me, through this whole thing?”

She starts to shake her head and begins to say, “N …” then she slumps forward and answers, “Yes, Captain Levan, I did. Does that disturb you?”

Levan swings his legs over the side of the bed as he sits up. Sitting naked, all the machinery now gone, he says, “I have to think about this. It’s new for me, 3rd Purist. No female has ever shown interest in me before – interest in my welfare of any kind – other than my Grandma Velma. It’s unusual, unsettling … scary. I have to think about this.”

Frena frowns as she replies, “It’s new for you! I’ve never felt this interested in anyone before, and it scares the gods out of me. I almost didn’t do normal ceremony services so I could stay by your side, in case you needed something, or an issue cropped up.”

Looking at the strangest woman he has ever met, Levan simply asks, “What do we do then?”

Looking just as confused, Frena answers with a shrug and says, “I pray.”

Getting dressed, Levan pays his hospital bill of four-thousand credits, and then he and Frena take a Quickie Cab to his apartment, where they confirm the repairs and reset the security codes.

Awkwardly, Frena leaves to go home and clean up.

Levan can’t sleep as all he can do is consider 3rd Purist Frena and their situation.

Eventually, he leaves every crew member a message on their chroncrom to meet at the Flind Exploration office at 03:29:10:00, and to be prepared to leave on their maiden voyage.

216:03:29:09:05

Arriving at Ferris Towers, Levan slowly walks along the hallway to Flind Exploration offices. He’s been running scenarios through his head on how to deal with Frena. The easiest thing would be to just let her go and replace her, ending all entanglements and potential conflicts of interests. But can he do that?

Looking down the hall from the lift, toward the Flind Exploration office door, it’s just as he expected, Frena is waiting for him … alone. Walking up to her, he says in a timid tone, “3rd Purist Frena, we need to talk … inside.”

Sighing, smiling, Frena says, “Wow, I’m so glad you said that. I have something I want to say. I’ve been thinking about it for some time now, since a few days after we started here. You make us some of your great java. Then let’s talk in your office.”

Not sure that they have the same ideas in mind, Levan opens the office and switches on the lights, proceeding to make them their java. He meets Frena in his office.

Handing the 3rd Purist her java, Frena sits her mug of java on the desk, before even taking a sip. Encouraging Levan to do likewise, Frena takes Levan’s hands, and she stares into his eyes while she smiles.

Levan can feel her excitement and joy as Frena asks, “Captain Levan, will you be my husband?”

Floored, Levan falls. Sitting on the floor, staring up into the shocked wide eyes of Frena, Levan is so very confused: he is a middle-classed, no status or reputation male, who has just been asked by a 3rd Purist to be her husband. He saw that she was interested in him, but this? Really? He asks as he draws himself back up onto his feet, “Are you sure you want me?”

Grinning again, Frena nods, saying, “Yes, Levan.”

Trying to regain neutral composure, but failing miserably, and fluttering between a huge grin and a deep frown, Levan is torn at the meanings of this proposal. He’d be a kept man if he accepts, and he’d be able to give Frena more than figurehead status of Flind Exploration if he wants to share more. He can have a family with her if she wants one? But what do they both bring each other in this? He hardly knows her, and really, she knows nothing about him. What if she changes her mind when she discovers his true past? What if he discovers she has skeletons in her past he can’t live with? The law doesn’t allow men to call for a separation or divorce. What could he do? What if they end up fighting all the time? He’s heard of partners doing that. Levan looks into Frena’s eyes – a bold move men aren’t allowed – but Frena doesn’t resist, or rebuke him. She looks back into his eyes, and then he discovers it: the legendary Purist Transcending, he becomes one with Frena, sharing her memories and sharing his with her. Together they become one, knowing everything each other has ever done or thought. They both smile as they discover that they are kindred souls, rebellious at heart. They are one of mind and spirit.

A voice calls out, “Are you two okay?”

Looking at the wall timer, discovering an hour has passed, they pull free of each other, smiling. Levan answers Frena, “I accept, seeing as you know my secrets and I know yours.”

She leans forward and kisses his lips, sending a tingling sensation throughout his body and garnering from the other gathered crewmembers, a unified, “What?”

Frena looks at each of them, and then says, “We’re getting married, after the expedition.”

An excited group cheer is heard, which is not what Levan was expecting. He spots one dessenter. Levan spies a glint of jealousy sneak in briefly on the face of Gunner Krenda, before being masked again. Levan hopes it doesn’t become an issue.

Levan addresses the crew once they’re all in the outer office. “We go to the shuttle in an hour and fly to the docking station to meet the docking station’s office quartermaster. He’s been setting up the Star Grean for her first expedition. Quartermaster Meelar, you will go over all our supplies with him to ensure everything is set on the Grean to your desires. Everyone else, you will inspect your stations and set her up to be ready to disembark at 03:31:00:00. Understood?”

A full round of excited, “Aye, Captain!” is heard, even from Frena. And the crew of the Star Grean begins with the Ferris Tower office scrub cleaning, closing it down in preparations for the crew’s departure on the shuttle.

216:03:29:15:12

With Yar navigating, Levan smoothly pilots their shuttle to Gresslar Station and then docks the shuttle in the Star Grean’s shuttle bay.

On board the Star Grean, after he directs each crewmember to their quarters, Levan calls the Flind Gresslar Docking Station Quartermaster over to the Star Grean.

Levan takes Frena with him to their command living quarter as they had discussed in the Ferris Tower office, sharing the officer’s quarters now as life partners.

Levan chuckles as they settle in, thinking that their first night together as life partners will also be their first night on Star Grean, and will be the first night the Star Grean will have it’s first crew, getting ready for the first expedition of discovery. A lot of firsts and discoveries.

The excited crew settles in, preparing the Star Grean for its maiden voyage and expedition.

216:03:31:10:00

Sitting in the pilot’s seat, Levan expertly guides the Star Grean out from the docking berth. The crew is amazed how smooth the disembarking is by Levan and the Star Grean. Slowly at first, they enter their designated traffic lane, following the flow away from the planet, out past the three moons, with the traffic thinning, heading outward away from their star, toward Yar’s planned Starfall jump point and the Star Grean’s first Stardrive jump. Usually, the first jump is the most hazardous for any ship that stays in the territory.

The Star Grean has a crew of seven. Captain Levan Ulmora is the pilot and owner. There is Navigator Yar, 3rd Purist and 1st Medic Frena, Engineer Talla (Scall), Gunner Krenda, Geobioscientist Kni, and Quartermaster Meelar.

On the acceleration, traveling out to the jump point, Levan gathers the crew together in the mess room. He looks at each member while frowning, wondering what they’ll encounter together and how each will react. He needs his second to be solid, a strong first-mate. Speaking directly to everyone, Levan says, “We are going in to life and death out there. No responsible Captain would undertake to lead his ship out into such a situation without a first mate as a second in command to take over if the captain becomes unavailable. I thought about this, and the decision really was quite easy. I’m asking 3rd Purist Frena to be my first mate and Navigator Yar to be my co-pilot. Any objections?”

This is met with silence and smiles by most, except Gunner Krenda. But no one objects. Having a female first mate carries a lot of weight for the crew, though it is obvious to Levan that Krenda has feelings of competition with Frena for the top spot as woman. Realising that he’s going to need to head this off somehow, but not knowing female psyche well enough, Levan has his job cut out for him.

Looking at Frena, Levan asks, though knowing the answer, “Any comment?”

3rd Purist Frena says, “We have 23 hours until we reach the jump point, according to Yar and Levan. So, I’d like to perform Rendfendal space services, blessing the ship and crew. If all attended, I would appreciate it. Gunner Krenda I could use your aid.”

Inwardly, Levan smiles, thinking that Frena spotted Krenda’s jealousy and competition. Frena is attempting to head off conflict, by asking for Krenda’s help in things. Might work?

After their 31:15:00 meal, Frena, with Krenda’s aid, starts the services, blessing the ship and crew. Frena finishes her services with the completion of the last ceremony at 31:17:25. It’s a solemn event that has Krenda, Levan, and Frena cheerfully in the Laser pod bay controls. Krenda lovingly sits in the fire control seat, caressing the sparkling new modern controls, ready for her use, and now blessed by Frena with the space god Rendfendal’s blessing. Krenda smiles gleefully as she looks away from the targeting screen and looks over at Levan and then to Frena, saying, “Thank you both. I will do you honour with your trust in me.”

Levan nods, saying, “I know you will 1st Gunner Krenda. I trust in you.”

Frena pats Krenda’s shoulder, replying, “As do I.”

Together, Levan and Frena retire to their room. The couple is alone for the first time without the stress of work performance. They look at each other and sigh.

Frena takes Levan’s hand, leading him to the bed. She sits with him, saying, “I know how hard it is for you to accept women commanding over you. I will try to refrain from doing so as much as I possibly can. But we need to keep reigns on Krenda.” … “We have four hours before anyone expects us anywhere. So, I would like to present you with a gift I had Quartermaster Meelar obtain for me. I know how much music means to you, and I know you play the guitar, so I got you a rare, Royal Pheasant Guitar. The only one the quartermaster could find was an amber-green. I hope it’s okay with you?” Opening her storage cabinet, Frena pulls out a guitar case. Opening the case, she presents Levan with a green, twelve string, Royal Pheasant Guitar. Levan knows that only a hundred are made every Term, and each one is a different colour shade. He gingerly accepts the rarity and acknowledges the even rarer event – a gift from a female to a male. Tears trickle down his cheeks to meet the curves of his smile. In his life, the only other woman to gift him is dead now, his grandma Velma, and she insisted on maintaining decorum with proper etiquette at all times. Already, Frena has violated so many rules of etiquette regarding him. His green eyes water with tears as he positions the guitar and moves to tune it, finding that he doesn’t have to adjust the tuning.

He starts playing, “Star Crossed Sailor,” singing the tune for Frena.

They spend the next four hours enjoying their time together, starting with Levan entertaining Frena and finding out that she sings, too. Though they don’t share the exact same taste in music, as Frena is more into the modern music of the Mort system, while Levan favours music from two and three generations back of the Cora inner system. After two hours of Levan entertaining with music, Frena takes away the guitar and starts kissing Levan, which leads to arousing Levan, and the natural follow of events.

…..

As 32:00:00 is arriving, the two get neatly dressed in their spacer uniforms again, both grinning, happy with recent events.

Soon they arrive on the command bridge, the bridge crew is gathered already running through procedures for the Starfall jump that is to happen in a little over three hours.

From his console, Levan asks Yar, “So, these are the standard coordinates into Cora system at nine-lightyears Starfall?”

Nodding emphatically, saying, “Aye, Captain. This takes you three Au past the Ort Sphere, to inside their system, as is standard entry procedure for Stardrive’s Starfall jump.”

Levan enters his piloting command controls that are necessary for Stardrive Starfall jump, asking, “And you’ll start calculations for the eight-lightyear Starfall jump to Lar from there? We’re not going in inner system, into Cora, as we have enough fuel and Talla doesn’t think we’ll need to dock for engineering in Cora. But in Lar, we’ll need to go in inner system to dock at Grumpy Station for fueling. Got that handled?”

Smiling, eager to get on with this, Yar nods, again answering, “Aye, Captain, handling.”

Damn, this is too good to be true, it’s happening, and this is ours. Damn it. Bless be Rendfendal.’ Turning to Frena, who has her eyes on Levan, Levan winks while grinning and feeling warm, tingling all over, she smiles and winks back. He feels like a teenager again, despite the physical pains.

216:03:32:03:23

Piloting the Star Grean up the last acceleration to Starfall jump velocity, Levan views the screens and gauges again, silently saying one last quick prayer to Rendfendal. He says out loud over the speakers, “Three … Two … One … Jumping!” and he triggers the Stardrive.

Everything goes void black, then there is a pop, followed by a bright white flash, then the natural blackness of space and the Star Grean is cruising at .01 Mm per hour just below jump velocity.

Yar quickly checks his state-of-the-art Class Three Astronav equipment which is just below military grade. He also checks the astroscopes, radars, white noise detectors, gamma detectors, etc. He soon turns to Levan, “Astronav indicates we’re in Cora.”

Kni then speaks up, “Communication beacon’s signal indicate this is Cora system as well, Captain.”

Levan sighs and turns to Talla, asking, “Systems?”

The engineer, who just finished reading through his various screens, answers, “All green, Captain.”

An even deeper chest sigh escapes Levan, and he detects the same from his crew. He begins a deceleration aiming for just to almost two Au below Starfall jump velocity, to save fuel, he’ll keep the higher velocity. He says, “Yar, you’re up; you have ten hours to calculate the coordinates for the next jump, we start for the next Starfall at 03:34:00:00.

216:03:34:12:24

With the course corrections, they had to adjust velocity slightly. Now, nearly up to Starfall jump velocity again, Levan is still accelerating again and is counting down with everyone sitting strapped in their couches again. Calling out over the speakers, “Three … Two … One … Jumping!” Once again there is the void blackness followed by popping and a white flash, then cruising along at just under Starfall jump velocity.

Again, the crew confirms location. This time they’re on target in the Lar system.

Talla says to Levan, “Captain, with the last system’s maneuvers and the design of the ship, we can easily make a third jump before docking for fueling and inspection. But these beauties of B Drive Ion engines will need an overhaul in drydock after the next jump.”

Levan considers this and then commands as he starts decelerating to almost two Au under jump velocity, “Yar, start calculations to Tor. Kni, contact Depar Station, book a drydock for our engine’s overhauls. Meelar call ahead and order your restock supplies to fill to full inventory. That’s all folks. Everyone, be back at your stations at 03:36:00:00 for the next Starfall jump.”

216:03:36:00:35

Anxious, Levan accelerates the Star Grean, edging up to Starfall jump velocity for her third jump in a row. It is rare for a captain to voluntarily jump their Stardrives for three jumps in a row when the Stardrive is paired with Ion Drive engines. But Talla insisted that it would be safe with these drives. Levan looks over at Talla who is relaxed, monitoring his own screens.

Gods I’m nervous. We should have docked and at least performed an inspection and refueled. Now we have enough fuel for a decel and a ten-days hold. Depar put us on four days’ hold, before docking, if our berth opens on schedule, which they rarely do.’ Fussing nervously over details, Levan stops his scattered thinking and refocuses on piloting, reading his screen’s velocity. He continues the count, “Two … One … Jumping!”

Cruising in the void of space at just under jump velocity the crew confirms that they are in the Tor system, out on the edge of Humar Empire territory, the last inhabited and explored system in this direction.

Levan begins piloting into the inner system, shifting the Grean to beginning the full deceleration once they are close enough. He guides the Star Grean on Yar’s route to Depar Station with flight control’s guidance. The deceleration takes time, twenty-three hours with the Class B Ion engines firing and the Solar Sails deployed, working together at two-thirds thrust when they are 1,500 k Au from a good size star.

216:03:39:02:27

Talla addresses Levan while the Captain is monitoring his pilot’s screen, “Captain, I’d like to inspect the fusion reactors as well. This tub sucks a lot of juice from them. Over seventy-eight units of power from the reactors when all systems are running. I want to make sure all fifteen are in top shape.”

Levan groans, looking up he asks, “How long will that take?”

Talla chuckles, “Alone? About thirty working hours per reactor. Each engine requires at least thirty hours for overhauls. We’re here for a while if I work alone.”

Looking back to his screen, Levan asks, “Can you do any of the work before we drydock?”

Shaking his head, Talla replies, “No Captain.”

Frowning, Levan, replies, “Okay, I’ll take it into consideration.”

Moving over to the com console, Levan looks the controls over, then he calls Kni to the command bridge.

216:03:39:04:26

With Kni on the bridge, Levan asks him to patch them through to Depar Station’s employment reserves section.

Using Kni’s aid, Levan contacts Yeta Noar, an old male, who is a low-end desk bureaucrat. Levan asks him, “Yeta, I need to outfit my crew with two more junior engineers trained for Stardrives, and two more security personnel, ready for out of territory jumps. I’d like to have at least four engineers and four security to interview. Can you arrange it?”

Yeta grunts, and then replies, “I have three engineers qualified for Stardrive ships on standby, and any of over half of a dozen military can be lined up. When will you be ready to interview them?”

Levan replies, “I’ll be in the lineup in four hours to get into drydock. I can shuttle over to you anytime after that.”

The minor bureaucrat pauses, then he replies, “We can start with the first interview here in eight hours. You can rent an office from us for twenty credits a day.”

Agreeing, Levan answers, “Done, I’ll be over in eight hours.”

216:03:39:12:42

The Star Grean’s shuttle docks with Depar station’s office central core under Levan’s smooth guidance. Disembarking, Levan and 3rd Purist Frena search for the Bureau’s core offices, finding them in the upper offices that occupy the front third of the office core. The auto-assistant directs the pair to the Employment section. Finding Yeta is relatively easy in the low G environment. The duo engages Yeta in light banter before he shows them to their rented office, and displays their two-day itinerary on the desk monitor. Yeta quickly excuses himself, as it is obvious by the way he sidesteps when near Frena, and from his fidgeting, that Yeta is nervous around her. Though he observes complete proper protocol and proper etiquette the whole time, he is quick to exit the office.

While the Star Grean is in the queue for drydock, Levan and Frena conduct nine interviews, hiring two junior engineers and three Spaceman 3rd Grade Marines for the security of the Star Grean. This fills all twelve of the crew cabins on the Star Grean.

As the crew waits to start working in drydock, they acquaint themselves with each other, assisting each other where needed.

216:04:04:12:16

Finally, the drydock bay’s end doors seal shut, with the Star Grean moored in place. The fuel lines snap into place, and Talla begins the process of topping up the ten, one-thousand-litre fluid tanks. Meanwhile, Meelar heads to the gangway where he starts taking on the rations and drinking water, as well as getting rid of the waste at the same time, before he arranges to do the transfer of other supplies.

Levan happily watches as the junior engineers crack open the hatches on Ion B Drive number one to begin work on it, assisting Talla.

Talla assured Levan that with three engineers working together he could do the necessary work in a third of the time. He virtually guaranteed Levan that they could inspect and overhaul all three drives in three days, give or take a few hours if no issues were found. And he also promised to finish inspecting the fifteen fusion reactors in fifteen days, thus getting the Star Grean out of drydock by the twenty-fourth of 04. Levan laughed when Frena told Talla that she’d hold him to it, at the cost of pay reduction if he failed. The engineer paled, whiter than Levan has ever seen him. But Talla held firm in his conviction, and he scurried out of the command deck, going right to work, getting the juniors suited up and moving within minutes.

216:04:08:06:25

By working a little overtime, Talla and his juniors finish the drives on schedule, along with the fueling top-up, with just over 3,500 litres of liquid fuel going into the tanks which hold 10,000 litres. They used just under a quarter of the tank’s capacity, which is less fuel then Levan estimated.

The whole crew is relaxing for the rest of the day. Near exhausted, everyone has gone with little sleep for days, prepping for the next stage of the flight. Yar has been busy with the prelim navigation into Tunda. Kni has been inspecting the science lab and familiarizing himself with the science bay’s equipment. Meelar has been organizing and stowing supplies and gear to his satisfaction. The Marines, with Gunner Krenda, have been running drills, gaining proficiency on board the Star Grean in various scenarios. Levan and Frena have been busy with the command center, both trying to learn how to use the communication center and Frena familiarizing herself with command controls as instructed by Levan, who, though highly knowledgeable with the command structure, spends time getting more comfortable with the Star Grean’s systems.

Each evening after supper, to the enjoyment of all, Levan regales the crew with an hour of performance, accompanying his playing of the green Royal Pheasant guitar with his singing. Sometimes, Frena or one of the other joins him, singing or playing their instruments along with him enthusiastically.

216:04:24:00:05

The drydock master opens the end of the bay’s hatches, and Levan boldly pilots the Star Grean out of the dock, taking the Star Grean into the busy traffic lanes under the directions of the flight controllers. Levan gave the flight control his destination before leaving drydocks. Flight Control guides the Star Grean outward, away from the inner system. Levan is given permission to incremental accelerations until the Star Grean is at point five Au per hour and long past the inner planetoids, approaching the jump zone and going to the space out of the territory. It is a no mans land out here, not visited by sane captains, with sane crews. The sanity of the Star Grean’s crew has already been questioned.

In one last test, Levan designates to Gunner Krenda, a lone space boulder, an ice asteroid spinning solo in space ahead of them. Having picked out the 30-metre diameter ball of ice from over thirty Au away, this gives Krenda plenty of time to power up and tune the laser. From less than 50 k kilometers, Krenda fires her laser, striking the asteroid’s side square on, spinning it off in another direction.

Levan ponders this, ‘That was with preparation and plenty of time to aim; what happens in combat?’ he keys the com to the weapons command pod, “Good shot. Can you do that without prep time? We’re moving too fast to pick a random target for you now. When we’re at a combat velocity, then we’ll test the system.”

Krenda keys back, responding, “I can do it again.”

Levan mutters, “I hope so, if we need you.”

216:04:26:12:36

Everyone is at their stations, apprehensive, as Levan counts down over the intercom. For five crewmembers, this is their first jump on the Star Grean. For three of those, this is their first jump ever.

Levan counts over the speakers, “Two … One … Jumping!” The black void, followed by the pop and the bright white light, and then a horrendous crashing thud as something solid strikes the Duroceramic-armour double layered ceramic hull. Then, followed by another pop, light and resounding thud.

Levan is tempted to immediately take them back into a jump, but with no coordinates, they could end up anywhere. Even worse, they could possibly end up inside the body of a planet or star. Now, at least they’re alive. There is another thud as they coast at just under jump velocity.

Levan puts the Star Grean into full deceleration. He has spotted the issue, they’re hitting rocks. He’s busy piloting around the big rocks, but the ship is still colliding with a few of the smaller ones. The radar is showing a broad belt wall of big ones ahead of them in less than five minutes, which he can’t go over, under, or around. They are going to be going through them.

Signalling the weapons command pod com, Levan, as calm as possible, says, “Krenda, we’re going to be flying into a wall of asteroid boulders through a broad space. If you don’t want to be a permanent part of them, I suggest you get the laser up to full power. Your given free command to blast us a path through the wall. Quick now, you have about two minutes, Ensign.”

Krenda doesn’t respond, but Levan feels, through the floor of the command room’s deck, the hum of the laser powering up to full burn. A minute later, laser blasts burn rocks into dust particles, just a minute before the Star Grean starts to fly into the barrier.

Levan flies into the path opening up by Krenda. The crew braces for any impacts just in case the path is too narrow for the Star Grean. A couple times Levan is forced to squeeze the ship between asteroid size boulders that Krenda can’t break down enough.

Soon, Talla calls to Levan, “Captain, with your flying and the decelerating and with Krenda’s burning, we’ve drained the accumulators, and the reactors are starting to overheat. They’ll start going into reactor shutdowns in a couple of minutes.”

Levan grins, saying, as the laser stops firing, having cleared the path through the rock belt. “Keep the systems going as best you can, Talla. Another three Au and we can slow down on sucking the power out of her so bad.”

Levan weaves the Star Grean around a moon-size asteroid in time to avoid colliding with it, only to see two more ahead. Levan diverts the Star Grean away from these two moon size asteroids, but now the ship is colliding with a cloud of several small game-ball-size ice boulders instead.

Over the seven hours that they fly through the systems Ort Sphere, the hull is severely impacted many times. Because the Astronav sensors, damaged during the initial impact, have become disabled, Levan has to rely completely on the surviving video cameras and the radar systems to aide him in piloting the Star Grean.

As the ship exits the Ort Sphere, the Star Grean has already slowed velocity to almost half Starfall jump velocity. Some of the reduction is due to the collisions, but most are due to Levan’s forceful full extreme deceleration. With Levan’s piloting skills, they haven’t gone off spinning or tumbling, lost from the collisions. They have managed to hold a steady flight. Drives are pointed ahead and they are through the Ort Sphere, Levan orders Talla to quickly deploy the Solar Sail Drives, adding to the deceleration.

216:04:27:12:42

The Star Grean has come down to 11.9 AU per hour in velocity, and now it is time to assess damages while the remaining functional fusion reactors and solar drives recharge the accumulators and try to keep power to the remaining ship’s system.

 

by Kenneth Shumaker

 

To be continued in Episode 004 on 216:04:27:13:00

With the Star Grean in an unknown system and their Astronav system damaged, the engineers start assessing the damages to the Star Grean. Yar tries to pinpoint their location, using whatever undamaged telescopes, sensors, and camera systems are available.

Levan has 3rd Purist Frena administering to a wounded marine.

 

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca ken@inupress.ca

 

All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

The trademarks and myriad names of products, journals, and businesses used in this work are not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by any trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

 

Kenneth also has available a coaching session for mentoring on the art of writing and also on getting published for C$125.99 for one hour session to a limited number of applicants. For an appointment email inupress@inupress.ca or call 1-780-523-5835 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm MST Monday through Saturday.

 

 

 

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Join Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight) in his Dragoman Bloodgrue Volume anthologies.  ‘Volume I: Fare Where?’ is the first of the Bloodgrue serial series. Read how Bloodgrue tests the gods’ resolve. Do the gods let the brave be fools? Is Bloodgrue brave or a fool? Follow Bloodgrue to see where his life’s path wanders. In ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue Volume I: Fare Where?’ we are introduced to Bloodgrue as he begins his journey climbing the social ranks of Mount Oryn in North Docks.

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About the author: Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight)

Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy author with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress). Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs. He now writes several serial short stories each month. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.

 

Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 003 of ‘Star Grean. Do you want to read more? Follow this link to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While on the website, you can follow and join our free e-mail subscription list. You will receive a gift when you have first sign up, and you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, InUPress, and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently the gift was a pdf of an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

 

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Thank you for reading issue 113 of the Owerton Challenge where you the reader can participate in the writing of each issue.

The Owerton Challenge items list:

  • _____________________ One colour
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Include your name, location, and e-mail address as well, so proper credit can be given to you as the contributor. Your email address will not be shared unless you direct us to so and you give us your permission.

 

We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

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Owerton Challenge I112, Star Grean E002, ‘Black Cat Circle’

 

On Challenge Issue 112

Episode 002

January 23, 2017

 

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 002, ‘Black Cat Circle

 

Challenge: issue 112

  • Words: Black Cat Circle
    • Black
    • Cat
    • Circle
  • Contributor:
    • Lee ann
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Star Grean

 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 001 on 216:03:19:19:55

 

Pilot Levan of the Humar Empire received terrible news, and he had to make a choice. His maternal grandmother died in an inter-corporation takeover duel, where both combatants died – bad news for both corporations and families. The news was given to Levan by the corporation’s lawyer at five minutes to midnight, telling Levan that he has no options for taking the Ulmora Corporation seat on as head, he has to give it up. On the bright side, Levan has inherited a ship, the Star Grean. Now, he’s looking for crewmembers for his new ship.

 

We now continue in episode 002 at 216:03:21:09:31

 

Looking at Frena, Levan holds his tongue trying not berate her for talking down to him. Levan arrived at 21:09:22, plenty of time before he planned on opening the office to meet with his new crew. He found Frena impatiently waiting for him at the door, and she cut him a new arse with words that are not polite to repeat.

Instead, Levan says, “3rd Purist Frena, I did say that I would meet here at the office with the crew at 03:21:10:00. It is now, by my chroncrom, 03:21:09:31, well before the designated time. May I suggest I make some java for you while you relax and resort your thoughts for this afternoon?”

It is evident to Levan that Frena hasn’t had a male stand up to her before, as she stands and stares at him with her mouth slightly open and water-blue eyes slightly wider than normal. She flutters her hands a bit and answers Levan, “I like my java black … and steaming hot, dark roasted … fine grind blend.”

Levan bows and replies, “I’ll see if we have any … Please, I think the seats look comfortable by the desk.” He feels a slight pang of guilt for putting her in a lower place, but this is his office and corporation, and they will be flying on his ship. She needs to be aware that he rules in these areas. When they are out in society, he doesn’t rule. But here and on his ship, she is a subordinate, not him.

Levan finds the java machine in the second small room with the plastacine publication room and radio-vid communications center. There is also an interstellar radio-video communication console along with a class three master computer coordination server console with class four security protocol center for the server, office, and business. ‘Damn the gods, if I want to keep all this, I need a female figurehead for the business. I don’t have anyone I trust. But I have Frena, and so far we have a rough understanding. What’ll happen if I offer her to sit as the figurehead of the corporation?’ Levan proceeds to make the best steaming mug of hot black strong dark java he can from the auto-processor, instructing it to use the finest grind it can produce. He makes a second mug for himself. Taking these to the front office after less than five minutes, Levan hands Frena her cup of java.

Frena takes the cup of java, sniffs it, and gleefully smiles. Sipping the steaming hot liquid, she grins with an expression that would make a child proud. Frena says, “This is perfect; you do well.”

Not letting out his sigh, still breathing normally, Levan says, “I have a proposal for you 3rd Purist. I want you to be Flind Exploration’s figurehead. But only a figurehead, if that will work for you. I’ll pay a bonus of ten thousand credits a month?”

Sipping her java, Frena observes Levan as a Tala hunting cat would stalking a Goran hare. “Make it fifteen thousand a month, boy, and I’ll be your figurehead, keeping quiet when you want.”

Now, sighing deeply from his throat, Levan answers as he gives a crisp spacer salute. “Deal 3rd Purist. But for that much, you must speak what I want to be said when I want it said.”

Shaking her head, Frena replies, “That kind of effort will cost you twenty thousand a month.”

Stuck between rocks under the currents in a river, having now opened this dialogue, Levan bows, acknowledging Frena. Levan says, “Okay … agreed, 3rd Purist.”

Frena smiles, saying, “Shall we enjoy this perfect java you brewed, Levan?”

Watching Frena, Levan wonders as to her motives, as no woman has asked him to observe beverages with them before and she is his employee who has legal rights to command him – a tough spot for him. Yet, she’s unusually polite for a female.

The two sit and enjoy their java while waiting for Yar, who arrives punctually at the time of 21:09:55.

Frena frowns at Yar but keeps silent. Having finished her java, she hands Levan the mug saying, “I’d like another.”

Laughing at the paradox, Levan takes the mug and asks Yar, “How do you take your java?”

Caught off guard at his employer asking him how he wants his java, Yar bows, and replies, “I’ll take it with a whitener and two sweeteners.”

With four minutes before office hours begin, Levan brews three more mugs of java as each likes them. Distributing the brewed mugs of java, he says, “I’ll be in my office for the next hour. Relax and enjoy your first hour free with paid employment.”

Entering his office, Levan activates his desk and views the reports from the auto-assistant, which were prepared over the last few hours. He instructs the assistant that also he wants the pages for those seeking employment.

First, he checks the sub-request contracts, finding three government contracts from differing bureaus.

The first one he reads is for a payout of 200 k credits to the crew who assesses the hazards for further developing the Cax system which was roughly explored by a team ten Terms ago. The previous team had found no inhabited planets. Thinking about this, Levan decides the reward is too low for the expenses involved.

The second sub-request is on a mission from the Norail Employment Security Bureau, paying 400 k credits to the crew who enters the established uninhabited Yer system and rids it of the pirates who jump out to raid the Lar system. Levan finds too many unknowns for the payout offered, and the risks are too high to be worth the reward. He rejects this one too.

Looking to the third and last report found by the assistant, Levan reads it. The request is from the Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion Bureau of the Hazdal Space Corporation of the government. It offers 1 mil credits to Corporations who jump to new systems, exploring them and returning with complete reports of the systems. This is just what the Star Grean was designed for, thinks Levan. They just need the right crew for her.

Levan, satisfied that he can get the Star Grean employment if Frena plays her role correctly, looks to the second set of reports – the system charts and reports to get outside of the territory. He finds a system named Tunda which looks promising. It’s three Starfall jumps from here in the Mort System over to the Tor system, then another jump to the Tunda system. It looks to be 43 light years of traveling through a series of four jumps. The last jump is the longest at fourteen light years, which is close to the maximum for Star Grean’s Starfall. Star Grean Stardrive’s maximum technical Starfall reach is nineteen light years – as documented on plastacine.

Yes, this is doable with the right crew … if motivated enough. We can make this happen. Now, to prime Frena with some coaching, so she can do a proper presentation to the right department in the right bureau, and then we’re set. No government agency will even entertain a male presence, never mind listen to a presentation for a contract application. I just have to make an appointment. We’ll have time while we wait for that to evolve, as they usually drag their feet for a month or more.

Making the appointment application, and then moving on to the employment seekers pages, Levan is aghast at the number of screens of seekers, just for this city. After narrowing the fields of search to just local spacers searching for immediate employment, the screen narrows down to fourteen applicants. Taking the list of candidates out to Frena, Levan asks, “3rd Purist, how do you feel about helping me set up interviews with recruits for the crew?”

Smiling gleefully, Frena leans forward, saying, “Interviews are something I’m great at conducting. Let me help arrange meetings, and we’ll sit through them together. I’ll help weed out the scraggs from the seeds in the chaff of recruits.”

Fearing that she’d take over, Levan already regrets asking Frena to help him. But he hands her seven of the names, along with their contact information. Two hours later, the two of them have narrowed their list down to eight interviews to take place over the next two days, starting with the first one in three hours.

Frena sits with Yar and Levan, and she says, “This is so exciting – involved in the building of a corporation and the crewing of a virgin ship. We really need to bless the ship as soon as possible, or Rendfendal will be angry with us.”

Humble, not wanting to anger any god or a Purist, Levan answers, “As soon as we have enough crew members to do a proper ship inspection, we’ll fly up to her.”

Smiling like an eager child, Frena nods, rubbing her hands together, asking, “What should we do first?”

Seeing that now is as good a time as any to address the rock in the matter, Levan clears his throat. He watches Yar for a few moments before Levan turns to Frena and says, “We are going to Tunda system to explore on a government contract. You are going to get us this contract with a presentation that I’m going to coach you on.”

Frena jolts back in her seat, aghast at the suggestion, “You? You’re going to coach me on conducting a presentation?”

Holding his hand up, Levan silences her and says, “Yes, because we want this contract, and my grandma Velma taught me the proper etiquette and style of presentation to use to receive a positive contact for government presentations to get contracts. Thus, I suggest you should follow my guidance if we are to receive a chance at getting the contract. I am getting us an appointment for a presentation.”

Looking even more shocked at Levan, Frena asks, “How are you, a male, getting an appointment with a government department?”

Grinning, Levan says, “We – you and I – are getting an appointment, not with just a department but with a bureau department of Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion.”

Shaking her head, Frena snarls, “You didn’t ask for my authorization.”

Levan answers, “I did – you are being paid twenty-thousand a month for your authorization.”

Staring at Levan like an animal blinded by vehicle headlights, it suddenly hits Frena what she agreed to earlier. She just utters, “Oh.”

The desk auto-assistant chimes, uttering, “Message for Head of Flind Exploration from Hazdal Bureau of Space Exploration and Expansion chief of staff’s office.”

Levan looks at Frena and nods.

Frena gulps as she suddenly realises that this is now her position in Flind, whether she is ready or not. It’s not play time or imitation; this is real. Frena says, “Go ahead, speak.”

The assistant utters, “To the Head of Flind Exploration, your request for contract proposal presentation has been received. An appointment has been set for 03:23:10:00. Be punctual as a second appointment will not be arranged. End of message.”

Levan and Frena stare at each other. They’re pale like a spotless plastacine page.

Frena asks, shaking, “Can we be ready in less than two days?”

Seeing her commanding presence drop for the first time, Levan picks up the pieces as it is his job, saying, “Of course, if we work on the presentation between interviews.”

At seeing Levan’s control, Frena regains her normal complexion colour and composure. Frena nods, saying, “Yes, of course.” But her voice wobbles, betraying her words and showing her lack of certainty.

 

03:21:16:00

 

The first applicant arrives for her interview with Levan and Frena. Levan has caved in and agreed that Frena can sit in on the interviews with him. The applicant is a female engineer with three terms of experience. But she has only worked on systems ships in the Mort system. She’s never worked Stardrive ships and has no education regarding them. When asked what she was expecting for pay grade, she boldly said Rank 10, which in spacer terms is equal to a lieutenant paygrade. Levan isn’t about to pay a no-skill engineer, a lieutenant’s rank pay. Levan thanks the applicant after almost immediately dismissing her.

After she has left, Levan turns to Frena, and asks, “Do you believe the gall of her? She has no skills, yet she wants more pay than a ship’s captain typically gets.”

Frena corrects him, saying, “You mean a male ship’s captain. Females receive paygrade Rank 14, remember, and a full Stardrive Engineer Master Ensign 1st Class can rightly expect Rank 10 if a female.”

Fuming at the indignities, Levan doesn’t voice his thought. ‘Not on my ship.’ He holds back his opinions, offering instead: “The next applicant is at 21:18:00; we have half-an-hour. Do you want another java, before we start rehearsing?”

Instantly, Frena replies, “Just like you made in the morning, boy … I mean Levan … Sorry, Captain Levan. It’s going to take some getting used to you being the captain. I will, though, or we’ll come to locked heads – one or the other.”

Levan whispers, “Likely locked heads.” as he walks to the communications/supply room.

Smiling, Frena replies loudly. “No, not necessarily, sweetie.”

Trying not to fume at such familiarities, Levan makes three mugs of java. As he is returning to his office, Levan leaves Yar’s java with him, telling Yar, “Just send the next applicant right in. Don’t mind any shouting you hear in the office, as I may have locked heads with Commander Frena.” He continues walking to his office as Yar grins and half-heartedly salutes Levan.

 

03:21:17:56

 

The next applicant arrives, fully dressed in the full spacer formals of a Purist. She addresses Frena only, which immediately sets Levan into an internal fuming, as Frena joyously carries out the interview. 1st Purist Yesta is from the fringe of the territory, out at the edge of the Eur system. She was abandoned here in Mort system by her last crew during their stopover, and she’s been trying to earn enough credits to fly back to her home in Eur to reunite with her family. Her only real experience as a ship’s spacer is as a communications officer in Mort system ships for four Terms now. When Frena asks her what paygrade she wants, Yesta replies she’d request Rank 7 Communications officer paygrade. Frena thanks her as Levan continues to fume silently. Dismissing Yesta, Frena waits for the door to close, and then, after a count of thirty, she burst out laughing. When she settles down and is calm again, she says, “You can’t seriously consider hiring her? We’re going Stardrive. She’s an inner system com officer who’s a Novice Purist of the god of dirt – the earth god, Zorendal. She’s more useless than a male toilet sanitizer. Don’t even consider her … And did you hear what she asked for pay? That is way out of line for her skill level.”

Now its Levans turn to laugh. After a full belly laugh, Levan calms and then says, “I thought you were grilling her cause you were seriously considering her. You skank, you were tearing her a new arse, female style.”

This earns Levan a menacing glare from Frena, as she asks, “What did you say, boy?”

Suddenly, remembering who he is with – a female 3rd Purist – which means she’s a class three priestess, a woman of rank in society who is accustom to absolute full respect and subservience from all males and lesser ranking females, he quickly corrects himself. “My apologies 3rd Purist, I misspoke. Please forgive my rudeness.”

They are in silence for a few minutes as Levan is standing and bowing to Frena while she glares menacingly at him. Then, suddenly, she lightens up and stops glaring and answers, “No worries, I guess you’re right. I was rough on her, for that matter, I’ve been rough on you, too. You are my employer, my source of income and theoretical superior if you weren’t a male. I will overlook the rudeness, this time, Captain Levan.”

Levan takes a deep breath, after breathing slow, shallow fearful breaths for so many minutes. He feared that Frena would have him relegated to the detention cells, as Frena could easily have had done for his misspeaking. Wiping the sweat from his face, Levan says, “I think we can all go home for today. That was our last interview for the day, as the third one set for today canceled during our first interview. I will see you tomorrow at 22:10:00?”

Frena, reading the relief in Levan, she smiles, and nods, as she hands him her empty mug. “Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow, Captain Levan. Don’t be late again.”

Resisting a groan, Levan wonders what time his being late is. He answers, “I will see you at 22:10:00 … 3rd Purist.”

She stands and leaves casually as she summons a Quickie Cab on her chroncrom. Walking through the reception office, she looks over at Yar and says, “You can check with Captain Levan, but I think you’re dismissed until 22:10:00 as well.”

Yar looks through the open office door at his captain, and Levan nods. Yar gives a crisp spacer salute. Standing, Yar also summons a Quickie Cab over his chroncrom, as he follows Frena out of Flind Exploration.

 

03:22:00:23

 

As Levan opens his apartment door, he smells the dead animal before he sees the Goran Hare with its guts splayed out on his dining table. He waves his hand over the light switch, brightening the apartment. On every wall is spray-painted the face of a cat in black paint, with a three-centimeter band circle around it. The whole disc is half-a-metre in diameter. The vandals got at least one painting on every damn wall. After searching the rest of his apartment, he finds another dead Goran Hare corpse splayed out on his bed. By the state of their entrails, the corpses were left eight hours ago. Searching his possessions, Levan can’t find anything missing, and he discovers that his security system wasn’t broken into. The culprits used a legitimate means of access. ‘Damn thugs, wonder what they want?’ He thinks as he starts cleaning up the mess, starting with the two hares. Placing the corpses and entrails in disposal sacks, along with blood soaked cleaning cloths, Levan takes the disposal sacks down the hall to the chute, and Levan gets rids of the gut-wrenching nauseating refuse.

As Levan is entering his apartment and just about to close the door, he reels back with the impact to his face from two fists.

Levan lays on the hall floor as he tries to shake the stars from his mind and his vision. He feels hands grip his arms and drag him. He hears a door slam shut, and then he feels ice water wash over him. Gasping, as he draws in breaths of air from the shock, the mental and vision stars begin to clear.

A voice commands him: “Stand up, boy.”

Still too shocked to distinguish whether it is a male or female talking to him, Levan reaches up to grab on to anything for support as he tries to stand. He struggles to regain more than silhouettes for vision. He feels hands take his hands and elbows, roughly aiding him to rise and stand.

The voice speaks again. With the ringing in Levan’s ears now a slight pinging, he makes out the voice as a mature male. Squinting his green eyes, he determines that the one speaking is a tall man with a husky build. So, Levan determines the man to be larger than most. Squeaking out through clenched bloody teeth, Levan asks, “What is this about?”

The mysterious man says, “Money, what else? We want a million credits by this time tomorrow. No security is to be called in, or you die.”

Levan spits out blood from between his teeth, and he feels blood trickling down the back of his skull and down his blonde hair. Levan says, “And just how the gods am I supposed to pay that? I can’t pay my two-hundred credits a month rent. I’ve been busy applying for work.”

Laying on the floor again, gasping for breath, after receiving double blows to his abdomen, Levan can only hear ringing in his ears, above the muffled speaking of the man. Tears run from his eyes, as Levan gets enough of breath to say, “My ears are ringing; I can’t hear you.”

He is left on the floor for what seems to be hours. Then, as his breathing normalises, the tears stop flowing and he can hear again. Hands drag him to his feet. The heavy man says, “I said, we know you have millions, as Velma Ulmora died fighting in a duel with Herret Trodan. You are Velma’s only likely heir. If you’re not her heir, then you will find out who is. And if you value life of any kind, you will get your hands on one million credits to give to us. Put the credits in the drive in the case on your kitchen counter. Do it by this time tomorrow, or someone will die … likely you.”

Levan throws up his last meal on the man’s legs. After receiving a kick to the face, Levan becomes unconscious.

 

216:03:22:09:03

 

Walking up to the doors of 1402 Ferris Towers, his eyes black and his face bruised, Captain Levan loudly groans as he sees 3rd Purist Frena standing and waiting for him, tapping her toes.

He punches in his security code and then places his right palm on the biometric scanner beside the door. With the door swinging open, he silently enters and swipes his hand in front of the switch, lighting up the offices.

Going to the communications/supply room, Levan automatically makes the three of them their morning java, placing Yar’s on ‘keep warm’ in the processor. He takes the other two mugs and leads Frena into his office. He hands Frena her steaming strong black fine-grind brewed java. Levan asks her, “What is your view on extortion?”

Not sure where this is leading, Frena answers, “I abhor the use of it, and will strike out at it to stamp it out at its source. Why?’

Nodding with approval, Levan says, “We need a tracking device, some weapons, and a shortcut on a chroncrom to city security. We’re going to hunt down the Black Cat Circle extortionist group, who beat the air out of me last night. They came demanding one million credits, or they’d kill until they received the credits.”

Frowning, Frena asks, “When do they want the credits by?”

Pointing at his chroncrom, Levan says, “03:23:00:00.”

Nodding yet again, Frena says, “No one threatens my congregation. I’ll get Yar working on the gear. I think he’ll need two-thousand credits to get the items we’ll need. Do you authorise the transfer?”

Having both his employee’s personal credit accounts, Levan uses his chroncrom to quickly transfers three-thousand credits to Yar’s account. Levan then tells Frena, “Talk with him. Here’s the transfer case; do what you need to do. I transferred three-thousand to Yar.”

Saluting with a Purist salute of respect, Frena takes the case and exits the office to wait for Yar and the first interview recruit of the day.

…..

Back in Levan’s office at 03:22:10:00, Frena has a humar male of 57 Terms-age for the day’s first interview.

Levan takes a liking to the man as soon as he boldly walks into the room exhibiting a light regard for etiquette.

After introductions, Levan asks, “So, tell us why you’re here Scall?”

Looking at Frena, then back to Levan, Scall directly addresses Levan, “Captain, I made a mistake and misspoke to a female captain thirty-two months back. I then got stripped of my job and was blackmarked twenty-one months ago. I was banned from ever working as a spacer by the Hazdal Space Corporation Council of Governing Agencies. I want to be honest, so you know what you’d be getting if you hire me. My Black Mark is for ten Terms.”

Laughing, to Frena’s frustration, Levan finally says, “So you’re telling me the government says I can’t hire you on my ship’s crew?”

Scall frowns and nods, and then answers, “Precisely, Captain.”

Levan looks at Frena, and asks, “3rd Purist, do Purists follow Government edicts all the time?”

Frena starts to smile, and she answers, “Not this one.”

Levan starts to reach for Frena’s knee to pat it, then before getting even a quarter of the way to Frena’s knee, Levan withdraws his hand from such familiarity. Instead, he says, “Good, that’s what I like to hear. Please Scall, tell us what you might bring to a ship like ours?”

The baffled man answers while somewhat sputtering, “Well, I’m a 2nd Class Stardrive Engineer with twelve Terms of Stardrive experience, and seven Terms on inner system tubs before that. My first six years in Stardrives was as a junior engineer, then followed by two years as a junior officer. The last years before my incident, and begging my pardon, I was with a ridiculous female captain who knew nothing about ship engineering. I was her senior engineering officer.”

Levan’s eyes are moist and sparkling in the light of the room, as he is so excited, not believing his luck. He looks at Frena and can see she likes Scall, too. Levan asks, “What pay are you asking for, Engineer Scall?”

The downtrodden ship engineer answers, “I would be happy, right now, as a junior with Rank 5.”

Shaking his head, Levan replies, “No my friend … if we take a chance on you, we’re paying you right with you in your proper station. You are going to be offered Senior Ensign 1st Class Engineer with paygrade Rank 7. That’s my thinking. None of this hare-footing around, we’re going all the way, sticking our whole foot in the noose.”

Grinning broadly, Scall spacer salutes Frena, and then Levan, asking, “Where do I sign up?”

Grinning, Levan just got to snub the government and hire a first-class senior engineer, cheap. It is a win-win for him until the government slaps his hands with their penalty and sentences him with detention cell time. But they have to catch us first. “Scall, we’re giving you different ID, until your real ID clears the Black List. I know the person who’ll supply it. But I’ll have to see them alone, tonight. Consider this as bonus pay from me. You’ll be registered under the new name for the ship’s crew for now.”

Frena slaps his arm and says through her teeth, “You didn’t tell me you had underworld connections?”

Levan chuckles, saying, “A few, from my pre-university days. While we wait for our next recruit, will you two leave my office so I can contact my connection.”

…..

Over an hour later, at 03:22:13:00, the fourth recruit of the series arrives. Eager to please the panel, she addresses both in her greeting. But she settles into talking with Frena, without entirely ignoring Levan, answering his questions when he addresses her, such as when Levan asks, “Tell us about your tub experience, Gunner Krenda.”

The female security officer replies crisply, “I became a ship’s gunner for security, seven Terms ago. First, it was on system ships, only getting onto Stardrive ships on the last three runs. But I’m bored with regular inhabited safe systems. I want to one day run on jumps that move out of the territory. I want to fly on exploration ships, discovering new systems.”

Frena looks at Krenda incredulously, and she asks sarcastically, “Really? Are you serious?”

Shrugging slightly, Krenda boldly answers, “By all means, yes, I’m serious.”

Levan winks at Frena, and he turns to Krenda, saying, “Do we have the job for you! What are your melee and weapons security skills like?”

Confused, Krenda replies, “I teach both at security schools when I’m between spacer jobs. Why?”

Excited, Levan leans forward, trying not to overstep socially allowed statements. He says, “What position and pay would you expect on an exploration ship?”

Thinking hard about this, Krenda replies, “Gunner, junior or senior, Rank 6 pay?”

Frena nods to Levan. Already having made up his mind, but happy to have Frena’s agreement, Levan says, “Tell you what, the Star Grean Exploration ship is looking for a Senior Ensign 1st Class Gunner. We are willing to pay at paygrade Rank 6. You’re hired Krenda; be here at 03:24:10:00 to start.”

…..

After filling out Krenda’s documentation and moving on with the day, the next applicant arrives at 03:22:15:02. He is a 56 Term’s-old male. The merchant belies the myths of a spacer quartermaster being a squirrely small figured woman. But this one is a large mature male, healthy and virile. A full-time corporate employee he is from Dozoran Corporation, he was employed as a store merchant for the last fifteen Terms. He informs Frena and Levan that he’s willing to leave the security of a corporation position to become a spacer, as he wants to expand his horizons and grow before he dies of old age. He brings his Terms of merchant experience and his garnered corporate merchant connections with him. Meelar is asking for pay grade Rank 4. But Frena offers Rank 3. Meelar, being so ingrained by society to accept female authority as absolute, agrees to the offer without negotiating. He is employed as Senior Ensign 1st Class Quartermaster Paygrade Rank 3.

Taking the time to complete all documents and making sure all the new employees have their plastacine copies, Frena and Levan work side-by-side diligently for an hour until the last applicant arrives who is twenty minutes late.

Frena wants to turn him away, but Levan agrees to hear him out.

Biogeoscientist Kni states his case. Kni completed Corporate University several months ago, admitting that he finished third from last in his class. Kni claims that he was bored with classes, so his assignments were done half-assed.

Levan says, “We don’t take on slackers. Crewmembers must pull their full weight that they’re responsible for, and are required to fill in others’ positions as are able. Why would we hire someone who does things half-assed?”

Almost as if shocked that he is being addressed like he is even being considered, Kni sits up proper and starts taking the interview seriously. He answers, “Captain, I haven’t been given the opportunity to express my potential. I received more education than my family required, to find something challenging or that I excelled at. The trouble was, I excelled at it all, and wasn’t challenged. But getting work experience might show me a new way of thinking – working beside others who challenge me to do better.”

Levan ponders this and then looks at Frena, who shakes her head. Watching the floor, and then up at Kni after awhile, Levan can see the tension in Kni’s jaw and arms. The boy seems to want this now. Levan asks Kni, “What do you expect to be paid?”

Kni immediately says, “I have all this education, which means I have loans to pay off still. I’d like to ask Rank 5 pay?”

Frena laughs and standing up she leaves the office.

Moisture highlights Kni’s eyes as his lips tremble and his cheeks redden. He asks, “Was I out of line?”

Levan nods, saying, “Yes, by a lot. You don’t have the experience to ask for that kind of pay. I might change her mind if you’re willing to accept Rank 3.”

Excited at a job offer with pay, Kni leaps up from his chair, saying, “Yes, talk to Purist Frena. I’ll take Rank 3.”

Levan smiles, motioning to the chair and saying, “Sit, I’m offering you Senior Ensign 1st Class Biogeoscientist at paygrade Rank 3 if you can be ready to ship out on 03:24:10:00.”

Almost shouting, Kni says, “Yes!”

 

216:03:23:08:00

 

The man from the Black Cat Circle arrives at Levan’s apartment as he indicated he would. He opens the transfer case and sees the disposable credit transfer drive chip. Taking the case, he nods and silently walks out of Levan’s apartment. Levan watches on his chroncrom as Frena walks out of his storage room with Yar.

Levan asks, “You have the rented hover vehicle ready?”

Yar nods.

Levan starts for the door saying, “Then, let’s go.”

Yar leads down to the garage, where Levan takes the controls of the hover car. Yar guides him as navigator, using the tracking device and following the case. They travel for nearly an hour until the vehicle being tracked stops outside an old style concrete house and the occupants scurry inside with the case.

Levan, Yar, and Frena wait in the hover car, watching the house.

Then, suddenly, the third-floor windows blow out with a flash as an explosion occurs inside the home. Several men run out of the exit on the ground floor, to leave over the next two minutes as the insides of the house burns. It appears no one calls emergency services, as no emergency vehicles arrive in the next half hour. The trio of spacers watches from up the street. Several of the escaping men were obviously severely injured.

Levan says, “The trigger worked nicely. As soon as they inserted the transfer chip, it blew the case. Now we know where their safe house is, if they use it again. I counted eleven escaping. You two? I recorded them all.”

Both agree.

Levan starts the vehicle, and they drive toward the downtown official Hazdal Space Corporation Bureau government towers for their presentation appointment, which is in forty-five minutes.

 

Kenneth Shumaker

 

To be continued in Episode 003 on 216:23:10:20

 

After waiting in the waiting room for twenty minutes past their appointment time, Levan has Frena take the lead, as they had rehearsed the interviews the last two days. Now the presentation is in Frena’s hands, as government bureaucrats never listen to males. Without Frena this contract presentation will go nowhere.

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca inupress@inupress.ca and www.kennethshumaker.ca ken@inupress.ca

All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

The trademarks and myriad names of products, journals, and businesses used in this work are not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by any trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

 

Rusty Knight also has available a coaching session for mentoring on the art of writing and also getting published for C$125.99 for one hour session to a limited number of applicants. For an appointment email inupress@inupress.ca or call 1-780-523-5835 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm MST Monday through Saturday.

 

Discover the new novel published from InUPress by Eric J Kregel, ‘Exhaust from the Tin Woods’ out now in InUPress.ca, Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and Kobo.

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Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 002 of ‘Star Grean, but do you want to read more? We have an easy link here to follow so you can purchase more, follow these links to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While there, you can follow and join our free e-mail subscription lists, where you will also receive a gift when you have first signed up. Once you have signed up to the email list, you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, or InUPress and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently, the bonus was an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

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Include your name, location and e-mail address as well, so proper credit can be given to you as the contributor. Your email address will not be shared unless you direct us to so and you give us your permission.

 

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We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

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Owerton Challenge I111, Star Grean E001, ‘Red Horse Spoon’

Issue 111

Episode 001

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 001, Red Horse Spoon

 

Challenge: Red Horse Spoon

  • Words:
    • Red
    • Horse
    • Spoon
  • Contributor:
    • Brian Hill
    • High Prairie, Alberta 

Star Grean 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 000 on: 

The previous Owerton Challenges were written as epic fantasies, first as Dragoman Bloodgrue and then followed with Morgus.

Now the Owerton Challenge is presented in the Star Grean serial series which is a sci-fi series based on Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy world setting. The setting of the 5th Galaxy world is in another galaxy – a galaxy set in a cluster of eight galaxies – of which these stories take place in the fifth galaxy of the cluster. There are seven sectors of civilization in the 5th Galaxy, and Kenneth has stories taking place in three of these sectors. The Star Grean serial series of the Owerton Challenge takes us into the Humar Empire in the Toran Sector. The Star Grade novel takes place in the Grevel Sector. The Eren’s Challenge sci-fi serial series takes place in the Palcard Sector.

In this issue, 111, of the Owerton Challenge, we open the Star Grean serial series with Kenneth Shumaker’s inaugural episode with pilot Levan of Star Grean. Follow the escapades of pilot Levan, who is a male Humar. Experiencing Levan’s struggles in humar society as he rebels against the governing bodies.

We now continue in Star Grean episode 001, on Galatican Date 216-03-19-19-55 with:

The weather is horrid outside as winds gust in bursts, slamming into the windows of his apartment and rattling them. Levan let the corporate legal representative in before midnight, as is required by law. But he so wants to tell her to leave.

After demanding that Levan prepares hot cocoa, the woman sits on his sofa. The water percolates on the heater as he is readying the mugs for the hot cocoa.

Levan asks the lawyer, “You say you’re here on behalf of my maternal grandma, Velma Ulmora?”

Sighing at having to repeat herself to a simple male, the female humar lawyer answers, “Yes, boy. I’m here representing Velma Ulmora, of Ulmora Corporation. Now make the cocoa and sit down.”

Stirring the milk in with the powder and boiled water, Levan then hands Lawyer Ester her hot cocoa and sits across from her in his soft blue cushioned pocket chair. Getting a whiff of the flowery scent of her perfume, Levan recalls how the women of society have the privileges of luxuries like perfumes and such, while men have no grooming luxuries. He wants to say something, but he holds his tongue. He doesn’t need to do time in the detention cells again; he has a job interview in the morning with Yunor Space Corporation to pilot one of their inner system passenger liners. He’s short on rent for next month, which is due in twenty days, and he has no income right now.

He feels like a zoo animal as the lawyer carnivorously watches him. She says, as she sets down her mug, “Your grandma has died. She was killed in an inter-corporation challenge duel for ownership of Ulmora Corporation. Both combatants died, so there was no winner. You are Velma’s closest next of kin, so her estate falls to you. But as a male, you can not run or own the Ulmora Corporation, as laws dictate that males can not head a corporation. I took the liberty to find a buyer, and they’ve made two offers; one: a twenty-two million credit straight out buyout, or two: a ship and ten million credits settlement. The Ulmora Corporation is publicly valued at forty-five million credits, but you’ll never see that much as a male, Levan.”

Debating the events in his mind, weighing twenty-two million in hand, versus a ship and ten-million. For all he knows, the ship could be a shuttle, so he asks, “What type of ship is it, and how big?’

Flipping through screens on her tablet, the lawyer finds her notes and an image. She shows Levan the data and replies, “It’s a class three interstellar class III Stardrive ship, with three Class B Ion drives and it has a superior Class II Stardrive, as well as planetary drop engines.”

Wondering how odd this seems, Levan asks, “Tell me, is there a crew?”

Shaking her head, she replies, “No. There is no crew for this ship.”

Realising that even an old Class III exploration is worth five mil, and he’s a pilot looking for work on a ship to pay his rent, Levan smiles and says, “Where do I sign for the ship and cash?”

The lawyer opens her briefcase and slides five documents over to Levan with a stylus pen, saying, “Sign these.”

Quickly reading over the documents, he finds the documents to be in order, giving him clear title to the Class III Stardrive exploration ship and the transfer of ten million credits directly into his personal account, with the taxes already paid on the whole works. He signs them briskly.

Handing him his three physical plastacine copies, the lawyer makes the online credit transfer to Levan’s personal bank account. Then, while leaving without saying goodbye, she snorts as she exits his apartment.

Levan looks at the three documents on his table. As of midnight 216:03:20:00:00, the Stardrive ship, Star Grean, is his, along with the Flind Exploration business. But for the business to function and be legal he needs a woman to head the Corporate Business departments. Star Grean is in orbit at the Gresslar docking station, waiting for him and a crew. The documents also state that he has an office at the Ferris Towers docking port, here in Degressen City, where there is a shuttle in the berth at the port.

Looking at the clock on his wall, Levan sees it is now twenty minutes after midnight, the lawyer woke him from his sleep at five minutes to midnight, keeping the matter just legal, typical for a female.

Levan returns to bed, but he tosses and turns, not able to sleep. Imagine, he owns his own ship with a business and enough cash to run it all. But sadly, his grandma passed. He was planning on going to visit her next week. Mom refused to visit grandma, as mom felt that the two of them were competing with each other. Levan first met Velma when the woman summoned him to her corporate office after his mom’s funeral, nine Terms ago, after mom died from cancer.  Velma refused him work in her corporation, but she offered him this apartment, his to keep, as long as he maintained paying the low rent. She also agreed to fund him through corporate university on a trade of his choice. The three-bedroom apartment is worth five-hundred credits a month. Though, he’s only paying two-hundred a month for life, set out in his contract with Ulmora Corporation. But even with the lower cost, it’s been a struggle to keep up payments recently and still eat. Graduating at the top of his class as a Stardrive pilot, Levan made Velma proud. But Stardrive captains don’t want to hire new pilots or untested system pilots, and system ships only hire experienced pilots these days.

Graduating from university three Terms ago, with grandma’s support, Levan was at the top of his class and graduated with honors. He was awarded a prestigious System Star medal for his skills during practical training. But without tried and true ship work experience, it’s been tough getting work. But, now this. What are the odds? A huge hit of fate that is both good, but tragic.

Nausea has set in as Levan tosses about in bed. So, he finally gets up out of bed and uses the washroom. Then, he showers and dresses in a sports casual clothing set, with a tight-fitting racing short sleeve shirt and ankle length skin tight pants, adding to this his formal spacer boots.

Looking at the bright LCD computer screen, Levan sees the timer showing: 216:03:21:02:34Damn the gods, I’m going to the port taverns and then maybe see my new office.

Dialing for a local cab on his smartphone, Levan summons a Quickie Cab. He walks down the three flights of stairs to the street. Drinking his morning Blue energy drink that he purchased from the lobby vendor, he waits for the four-seater electric cab. Smiling, Levan looks up into the night sky and views the three moons. Soon he’ll be where he belongs – out there with them.

…..

Arriving at the Dentin Bar & Grill, Levan laughs, as he knows it is one of the three, twenty-hour bar and grills on the strip near the port. It is his favorite dive, as only spacers partake in the wares here, being as the patrons are too rough for civies. Once inside the dimly lit bar, Levan finds that the long narrow bar which seats nine is occupied by four spacers. Stepping between two of the stalwart patrons, Levan orders all four occupants a round of drinks, along with his own from the humar male bartender.

Turning to the man next to Levan, as the bartender pours the drinks, Levan asks, “Good morning partner. I’m Levan. How are you doing this morning?”

Peering at Levan, the man’s answer is to growl and to walk away.

The man on the other side of Levan, says, “Don’t mind him, his wife just kicked him out of his home.”

Turning around to look at the speaker, Levan asks, “And you, friend, what brings you here at three-thirty in the morning?”

Laughing, the man accepts his new drink. Saluting Levan with the drink, obviously having had a couple of drinks already, he answers, “I got let go from my duties on my last freighter when the corporation scuttled it for salvage. They replaced the tub with a newer freighter and a whole new crew, letting all hands go that were on the old tub the ‘Teradeal’.” Belching a minor note of rebellion, the stranger then continues, “Good morning friend. I’m unemployed navigator Yar. I’ve been between systems for going on six Terms now. I’m looking for work before I spend all of my termination payout.”

Chuckling, Levan chugs half of his drink. Setting down his tumbler, he faces Yar, and says, “How far have you gone out?”

Blinking a few times as he considers the question, Yar answers. “Well, on one trip we went to the edge of the territory. But usually, only two, maybe three jumps. Why?”

Levan considers his new ship, and then he asks, “What’s the biggest tub you’ve moved?”

Smiling, Yar says, “This is sounding a whole lot like a job interview … friend. I’ve flown class four, but typically it’s been class three freighters.”

Laughing, Levan chugs the last of his drink and motions to the barkeep, and then to both men’s drinks. He turns back to Yar, “My friend, it is a job interview. Do you think you can jump out of territory? Can you jump a Class Three Exploration Corvette?”

Stepping back, Yar looks at Levan. Suddenly a sober humar, Yar salutes with his left arm across his abdomen, in a spacer salute. He asks, “Are you serious, man? Class three Corvette? What is her nav system?”

Levan chuckles, saying, “I was about to go find out, once I had a couple crew members. I need someone to go with me to fly up in a shuttle, navigating in-system. I’d like to take a look at her, to find out what I need for a crew before I prepare the tub for flight … before I decide on the tub’s maiden flight. The beast hasn’t been off drydock yet.”

Yar’s face lights up with sparkling moisture in his eyes and a broad grin as he asks, “Will you take me? I can get you anywhere you want to go. Let me prove it?”

Looking at the eager crewman, Levan asks, “So, you want to sign on for danger, as my navigator, as Master Ensign 1st Class Navigator Yar, at pay grade Rank 9?”

Whooping and leaping straight up, reaching for the ceiling, Yar then settles down saying, “Are you kidding me? That’s higher rank than I’ve been given on any tub. My previous post was Petty Officer 3rd Class with paygrade 5. Gods, yes man! I’ll take your job! You kidding me?”

A woman just down the bar walks over and asks, “Do you need a Purist or a medic?”

Thinking about this, Levan asks, “I could use both. What are you asking for pay grade for the work?”

Saluting Levan, Purist style with three fingers of her left hand across her right breast, which to Levan is the first salute he has received from a woman, the woman replies. “I am 3rd Purist Frena, a spacer medic 1st Class. I ask for pay grade Rank 4.”

Thinking about the offer, Levan offers, “3rd Purist Frena, I offer you Master Ensign 1st Class Medic, 3rd Purist 1st Class paygrade Rank 8 – just to keep things right. I would by lynched by the government if I offered you less then paygrade Rank 8 on my crew.”

Frena smiles, saying, “I agree, I would think so too. I accept, spacer. Did you say your name is Levan?”

When it comes to females of the Humar Empire, Levan is accustom to not being addressed by title and to having his name forgotten. Levan answers her, “Yes, I’m Pilot Levan of Flind Corporation and Captain pilot of the Stardrive Class III Exploration ship, Star Grean.”

Settling together as a trio, they finish a third round of drinks. With his ID card, Levan taps the ID reader to pay, marking the reader for a fifteen percent tip.

Leaving the Dentin with Yar and Frena, Levan summons a Quickie Cab. The three ride to Ferris Towers office building to see their new business offices on the fourteenth floor of Ferris Towers in Degressen City.

Using the passcode – red spoon horse – which he set when signing the contract, Levan enters the four-room office suite, and he breathes a sigh of wonder. Flicking his hand past the sensor for the light switch, Levan walks into the bright room, leading the other two in. Together they examine their new workspace.

The offices are small rooms no bigger than twenty-five feet square for the biggest room and twelve feet square for the two smaller rooms. Levan surmises that he has an auto-receptionist and auto-assistant at his front desk, and also in his personal office. Activating the front desk, he checks the computer, confirming this.  He sets the desk to do research on border systems with those past the territory, gaining logistics on accessing navigation to them from this, the Mort system. Then he commands the personal assistant to enquire within the government records for any archives with contracts sub-requesting exploration in outer systems. He requires the information to be ready for him in his personal office at 216:03:21:10:00.

Satisfied that his desk assistant is set to work, Levan asks, “3rd Purist Frena, can you bless our office suite for its official opening?”

Frena hesitates, slightly bowing to Levan, saying, “Of course, yes.”

Kneeling in the center of the front office, Frena begins chanting her prayers, using her red silver spoon with the horse holy symbol of the space god, Rendfendal. She musically utters the correct phrases in songs to appease the space god with hopes of gaining a blessing for Flind Exploration and their ship. These prayers take 3rd Purist Frena twenty minutes to perform before she stands again, smiling, she utters, “There, the business is blessed with Rendfendal’s holy blessing. I will take personal responsibility for the congregation of Flind Exploration and her ships, Levan.”

Levan bows to her, saying, “Thank you 3rd Purist Frena. You may both go home now. Return promptly at 21:10:00 and we’ll start working to gather the rest of the crew. When we have a good size crew, I will fly us up to the Star Grean to inspect her.”

3rd Purist Frena scoffs at this, saying, “Remember, as part of the Flind Exploration Corporation, you are part of my congregation, and as such you are my responsibility. You, as a male in the corporation where I am employed, are legally my responsibility. Do you lightly give me orders, boy?”

Thinking quickly, Levan bows his head and answers, “As a member of your congregation, 3rd Purist Frena, I bow to your guidance through wisdom, as a male in society and our corporation, I bow to your authority. But as leader of Flind Exploration and Captain of the Star Grean, I am your commanding officer, I ask that you follow my guidance.”

While observing the two, Yar, standing silently, has gone sand pale.

Laughing at Levan, Frena answers. “Remember this conversation, Captain Levan. I will. I also look forward to our meeting again at 21:10:00. Don’t be late, I don’t tolerate tardiness.” 

Kenneth Shumaker

To be continued in Episode 002 on 216:03:21:10:00

Levan and his duo of new crewmembers work to acquire more crewmembers for the Stardrive ship, Star Grean. Unfortunately, the Black Cat Circle has other ideas for Levan and crew. Levan and friends must defend themselves from the Black Cat Circle.

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca ken@inupress.ca

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Owerton Challenge, Issue 110, Morgus Episode 006, Red Horse Comb

Owerton Challenge:

Morgus

Green Dragon Shield

Episode 006

January 2, 2017

Issue 110

 

Challenge: issue 110

  • Words:
    • Green
    • Dragon
    • Shield
  • Contributor:
    • Aaron Klassen
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Previously in episode 005 on Autumn 69 Unicorn with:

 

Settling into Hessan Manor with the staff and Baron Larap, Morgus is setting up his parchment making station. He studies spells, learning new incantations in time to deal with conflict.

 

We continue now in Morgus episode 006 of Owerton Challenge Issue 110 on Autumn 79 Unicorn:

 

Autumn 79 Unicorn

 

Walking into the waiting room with its artificial light of Imvor illuminating the room, it’s freezing in the chamber. Morgus enters with Tussel behind him.

Morgus asks the elven sergeant Elmar, who is in the room, “You knew the Imvor light would keep the wights at bay?”

Elven Sergeant Elmar, diminutive in stature, sighs with relief as he leaves the far side of the room where he was in the company of private Barran. Elmar answers, “I heard tales from my parents that wights dread bright light. I was hoping they wouldn’t transgress into the room. Thank you for putting that light up there.”

Morgus answers Elmar. “Creating and casting the incantation may have been fate or luck, only Ikerus knows. But it worked. I’ll pick a room on each floor and cast one ‘continuous Imvor light’ in each of those safe rooms. You know the wights’ll be back, right? We need a bishop or three clerics, or priests to deal with them. Do you know of any holy people who’ll live here to aid us? Do we have rooms for more staff?”

Elmar replies, “We have a staff bunkroom with five open bunks and three single rooms, one of which has a double bed. But it is the chamberlain or Ada who assigns rooms to staff. As to priests – I know of none.”

Tussel speaks up. “I know that a cleric of Imvor was wandering Loren Square and Market. He was looking for alms last six-day I was there. That was at the beginning of autumn.”

Morgus nods, “Thank you, Tussel, I’ll take a look soon. Did you catch his name?”

Tussel smiles, answering, “Yes, he was a jal by the name of Hez, from Arrington district.”

Morgus bows to the three warriors. “Fetch me if you need my aid. I’ll be in my study until morning meal.”

…..

Morgus arrives at morning meal to eat with Ada and the nine others at the table, as the three night guards decide to stay awake and join the rest of the staff for morning meal. Morgus asks, “Ada, if I need to bunk three holy people, can I use the rooms we have for staff?”

Peering over at Morgus, the house servant matron asks, “And who is going to take care of the extra work they will cause?”

Knowing Ada well enough now, Morgus was prepared for this. “They will be working under you as well, putting in four hours a day each, and doing what you require, within reason, with every six-day off free.”

A twinkle brightens Ada’s eyes as she asks, “Do I have to pay them, or does Baron Hessan?”

Morgus frowns, knowing this would come next. He replies, “You won’t have to pay them from the house budget. Baron Hessan will be paying them until an issue that has arisen is dealt with.”

Looking deep into Morgus’ eyes, Ada responds, “Okay, then two of them can use the bunk room, and one can have a single room. But I want a full four hours of work from each of them every day, except on their free six-day. There will be no exceptions for as long as they’re staying here.”

Morgus leans across the table, extending his arm, and Ada clasps with him.

…..

Today, Morgus crammed a total of four hours of mind-twisting spell research into the spell ‘locate object’. Now, he’s finished researching the spell, and he sits frustrated because it doesn’t matter how many times he memorizes and tries casting the new spell, the twenty-hours of complicated research seems to have resulted in a failure. Morgus appears to need to re-research the spell. This hurts his coin chest immensely, as he used two-hundred coin worth of reagents and supplies researching this and he has to do it over again. Morgus decides he that he should go for a walk to Loren Square and Market.

……

Leaving Hessan Manor half-an-hour before noon, Morgus walks to Loren Square and Market’s central square, searching for alms seeking clerics or priests. Finding several in the central square, he asks about an Imvor cleric named Hez. Locating such a priest more than three-and-a-half hours’ past noon, Morgus is soon approaching the alms seeking priest. Finding the priest dressed in soiled ragged robes, Morgus looks at the over half-century-years-old jalmal, saying, “Gods-grace good father. How fares you?”

From his seat on the fountain side, the disheveled cleric stares up at Morgus. He responds, “Poorly, good Master, could you spare a few dusters for Imvor?”

Morgus places three dusters in the empty alms bowl and says, “I have something more if you’ll come with me?”

Looking enviously at the three copper coins, the jalmal asks, “I don’t travel with strangers. Where would we be going?”

Morgus sits beside the cleric, saying, “Then let’s get to know each other. I’ll even buy you midday meal if you like? I’m Mage Morgus, Baron Hessan’s aide. You are Cleric Hez of Imvor, and I would like your support.”

Hez stutters as he says, “W … where … did you … come on m…. my name?”

Placing his hand on Hez’s shoulder, Morgus says, “I heard of your plight, and your good will, Cleric Hez. I am in need of a few good priests, so I seek your aid. Will you work for a Dyns per day until my plight is solved? It requires putting to rest several walking-dead.”

Staring at Morgus, Hez drools slightly for several seconds before responding, “By all means, yes. How many priests do you want?”

Clapping Hez’s shoulder, Morgus smiles, and then he says, “I think that I should look for two additional priests.”

Hez stands as he picks up his alms bowl, “Will we administer to the household?”

Morgus nods as he smiles, saying, “Of course, yes.”

Hez starts walking northward. “I know that the cleric’s hostel for Imvor has acolytes that might help.”

…..

Morgus follows Hez to the wooden structure that is the Imvor hostel, arriving nearly half-an-hour later.

Introducing Morgus to a jalmal acolyte, Hez steps aside.

Morgus says, “Gods-grace good priest Frise, I’m Mage Morgus of Baron Hessan’s estate. We’re in need of priests for the estate. Would you be interested in residing with us?”

Frise grumbles, and then after shaking his head he says, “I’ll not work for a noble.”

Morgus tries again, “If I pay you a Dyns a day?”

Frise walks away.

Next, Hez introduces Morgus to a thirty-year-old jalfem named Loura.

Morgus greets her, “Greeting priestess Loura, How fare you?”

Smiling, Loura responds. “Good fate Master Morgus, Imvor’s blessings unto you. I fare greatly, though poor of funds. Would you spare some coins?”

Seeing that Loura is practical and in need, Morgus responds, “If I pay your debt, plus offer you a wage of a Dyns per day, will you work for my Baron Hessan?”

Immediately extending her arm, Loura grins, saying, “Indeed … yes.”

Before clasping arms, Morgus asks, “How large is your debt here?”

Thinking a moment, Loura then says, “I believe I owe the priory 0.11 coin.”

Smiling, Morgus clasps arms with her, saying, “Gather your things and meet with me in the front foyer.”

As she walks away, Morgus says to Hez, “I would like one more priest. How large is your debt here, Hez?”

Bashfully, Hez responds, “0.17 coin. Let’s see if Hon will join us.”

Greeting the over forty-years-old jalmal, Morgus says, “Gods-grace, good fate priest Hon. How fare you?”

Hon bows to Morgus, and then responds, “Imvor’s-grace Master Morgus, please, a correction – I’m not a priest. I’m merely an acolyte of Imvor. I’ve been a captive recruit of the temple and hostel for over eight years. I’d leave, but I can’t afford to pay out my debt.”

Morgus nods, saying, “If I pay out your debt and Baron Hessan pays you a wage of one Dyns per day, will you come with me today?”

Hon’s eyes leak with tears as he bows. Kneeling, he says, “Yes! Please, Master Morgus. Anything to leave here!”

Morgus utters, “Fetch your things and meet me in the front foyer right away.”

After clasping arms with Morgus, Hon rushes away.

Morgus modestly turns to Hez and says, “Take me to the office and the headmaster.”

Several minutes later, in the headmaster’s office, Morgus faces the tall, heavy, century-old jalfem in the dank room lit by only one candle. He says to her, “Headmaster Chou, I’d like to pay out the debts of the acolytes Hon and Loura, as well as for Cleric Hez, purchasing their services for Baron Hessan’s estate.”

Gruffly, Chou looks through her books for records of the three. Then, she makes some rough calculations on her old chipped grey slate. Finished, she looks up at Morgus and grumpily says, “3.57 coin for that to happen, Master Morgus.”

Expecting to be paying less than a Flair, Morgus suspects she is charging a discharge fee for each. Considering the future, and that Morgus wants the good graces of the hostel and the Temple of Imvor, Morgus hands her four Flairs, as he smiles and cheerily says, “Keep the extra; don’t fret about change. Consider it a personal donation from me.”

With over four Dyns in donation, which is more generous than most of her patrons, Chou carefully and with precise facts, crafts three discharge documents, correcting the account books carefully. With the first smile she has granted in several six-days, Chou hands Morgus the three documents, and she firmly says, “Thank you, Mage Morgus. Please, if there is anything we can do for you, let me know. Come back anytime.”

Seeing how much his goodwill meant to Chou, Morgus silently lays another Flair on her desk. He takes the documents and standing he moves to leave. Before exiting the room, he turns back, noticing the glistening of extra moisture in Chou’s eyes. Morgus says, “May you be blessed, Matron Chou. Thank you for your service and good will.” Turning, Morgus casually walks out and fetches his three priests. They begin the walk home to Hessan manor.

…..

Arriving home about half-an-hour after gods-set, Morgus smiles and greets Ada. At the meal table, he introduces the three priests, and then he says, “I would like clean clothing and baths for the three tonight. Hez is assigned to a single room, as Hon and Loura sleep in the bunks, as per our agreement. They will start working tomorrow after everyone attends Imvor services performed by Hez at an hour before gods-rise. Ada, may I suggest Hez work with Henden? Perhaps, Hon should work with you, and Loura should work with Fen. Let’s see how that works out, as I think those jobs appear to be where their skills lie.”

Ada gruffly shrugs, saying, “I’ll consider your opinion. But I’ll assess their strengths myself as we settle them in tonight. For now, everyone sit and dish up a plate of food. Eat, you will be working hard tomorrow.”

 

Autumn 80 Unicorn

 

In frustration, slamming the table hard with his fist, Morgus hastily looks around his office. He has invested five hours into researching the spell, ‘locate object’ and he seems to be going the same direction he went last time, with only a couple minor tweaks. These changes might mean the difference in success, but he needs a break from researching.

I need to find an old friend. I had a couple of local friends. Harol lived an hour north. I’ll go and see if he still lives there.’ Morgus dresses for traveling, and he gathers his quarterstaff. Then, Morgus departs Hessan Manor, walking north on Drescol Street to go to 889.

…..

Arriving at the small lot with the old wooden two-story house, Morgus knocks on the weather-beaten door. A beautiful jalfem, nearing thirty years of age, answers the door. It is now nearly gods-rise as Morgus bows, soul-struck. His eyes sparkle as he says, “Gods-grace master, I’m Mage Morgus. I came to see Master Harol. He’s an old friend, but I think I’ll forget him and I’ll see you, as I’ve just forgotten everyone else. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting?”

With her eyes now sparkling, her cheeks flushed, pupils expanded, and her breathing changed to slightly more rapid, the woman answers after a giggle. “I’m Leza, Harol’s younger sister. Master Morgus, would you do me the honor of coming in for tea?”

Trying to catch an even breath, Morgus attempts to remain calm. “Indeed, I would enjoy a mug of tea, along with your company, Master Leza. Is Harol around?”

Leading the way to the kitchen, Leza makes the two of them a pot of strong tea and sets milk and honey on the table for the tea.

Using the milk and honey sparingly, Morgus pours himself a mug of steaming tea. Morgus discovers that he is having a difficult time focusing, as he is trying to look away from Leza.

They sit across the table from each other with their mugs of tea. It is Leza who finally speaks, her voice quavering. “Unfortunately, the pox struck our family five years ago. Everyone in my family died except myself and my youngest brother. It hit hard in this area, nearly two-hundred passed away in a season.”

Morgus places his hand on hers. “My sympathies, Leza. It must be hard maintaining your home with just the two of you, and being without your loved ones.”

Glistening moisture rises in her eyes again as her lips quiver, but then she regains her composure, and Leza says, “I’ve become a journeyman tailor, working over at Armal Tailors. And, Sesan has steady work on Renol fief. We earn more than enough to support ourselves. We’re saving coins to lease a tailor shop for me, for when I become master, and also enough to buy Sesan an apprenticeship.”

Morgus smiles, and then he asks, “Would you both like to come to Baron Hessan’s on Autumn 84 Unicorn? We can discuss an apprenticeship fund for Sesan.”

Blushing again, embarrassed to be going to a noble’s, Leza hesitates.

Morgus says, “I’ll send the carriage in the morning, about an hour after gods-rise. I’m glad you’ll make it … How did the pox start?”

Glad to change the subject, Leza responds, “Oh … it was when a green dragon came and breathed on our food supplies in the area. He was driven away by a knight who had a dragon shield and sword. The knight wasn’t able to kill the green dragon … the dragon shield saved the knight’s life three times before the green dragon left angry and defeated.”

Morgus files this information away in his mind – with an idea to research green dragons. If the dragon is still alive, he’s likely to return. Morgus also wants to know what happened to the knight and his dragon shield and sword.

Morgus spends several hours with Leza, talking about local history and Leza’s life. Morgus skillfully avoids discussing his past, specifically his pre-arrival at Perch Inn.

Morgus excuses himself two hours before evening meal. With a light step, he slowly walks home. It takes him an extra twenty minutes to walk home – a walk that would usually take an hour.

To say he is happy is an understatement. The last time he saw Leza, she was five-years-old, and the family was strong and healthy with a thriving merchant business, Sesan had not been born yet.

…..

Entering Hessan Manor, Morgus scrubs his boots off on the mat and walks to the staff dining room. Cheekily, he says to Hez, “How fares the holy?”

The three priests wear new sparkling clean robes of Imvor-red linen. All three are grinning as Hez replies, “You are our saviour, Master Morgus. We actually get real food, real work, with pay and believers who’ll pay attention to us if we preach at appropriate times! And we don’t have to beg for alms. You did us each a great service. Working with Ada is great. Even though Ada likes to complain, you couldn’t find a harder worker.”

Ada huffs and grins while the others laugh.

Morgus asks, “You’re welcome. Now Ada, can I use this dining room to entertain guests for meals?”

Ada shakes her head, answering, “No! Use downstairs in the staff social room. Do you need meals cooked and served? Loura can cook, and Hon can serve. If so when?”

Looking at Bushnel, Morgus asks, “Can Bushnel pick up a couple of people at 889 Drescol Street on Autumn 84, at about an hour after gods-rise? Then, we’ll entertain the guests with morning meal and midday meal, with Bushnel returning them to 889 right after his own meal after midday?”

Bushnel nods, saying, “Barring Baron Hessan’s needs, yes, of course.”

Gesturing haphazardly, Ada replies. “I know of no issues. So far, Larap hasn’t informed me of any appointments.”

Cheering loudly, Morgus does a small jig in his chair.

 

Autumn 82 Unicorn

 

Having talked with Baron Hessan about setting permanent ‘continuous Imvor light’ lights on each floor in safe rooms, in case the wights come back, Morgus selects a safe room on each level. He exhausts himself casting three of the ‘continuous Imvor light’.

Resting, Morgus looks at his research notes and estimates that he’ll be at least ten more hours researching the spell, ‘locate object’.

 

Autumn 83 Unicorn

 

Sighing deeply, Morgus rubs his tired eyes. His mind is cloudy and exhausted. He has been working on his research for five hours, and it’s a little more than an-hour-and-a-half to gods-rise. Morgus walks down to the staff social room where Hez is holding his Imvor service. All of Hessan Manor’s staff and Baron Larap Hessan are attending the service.

At the end of the service, Morgus approaches the baron, asking. “Baron Hessan, would it serve you better if we held services upstairs?”

Larap chuckles, “It would greatly serve me better, mage.”

Thinking about different locations, Morgus says, “I noticed there is a large unused room on the ground floor, which is next to the dining room. Perhaps the priests could use that room as a chapel?”

Clasping arms with Morgus, Larap answers, “Make it so, my aide.”

…..

Morgus and the others are eating their morning meal when the baron enters the staff dining room. Immediately, all stand and Larap gestures for them to sit. He says, “I see you now have Imvor priests on my staff and Mage Morgus petitioned me for a chapel. The Hessan Imvor Chapel is now on the ground floor next to the dining room. Please make good use of it. I will attend morning service with you, which I hope you will now hold at half-an-hour before gods-rise … for an old man’s sake?”

Cleric Hez nods, saying, “Yes Master. Baron Hessan, it will be so.”

Hessan smiles and leaves, causing much talk during the meal.

Later, while leaving the dining room, Morgus recalls that he was to pick up his parchment knives from Smith Beraran today.

…..

Entering Bladesmith Beraran’s shop, Morgus clears his throat to get the smith’s attention.

Rushing over to Morgus, Beraran says, “The knives are ready for you to take, Mage Morgus. I finished the final touches this morning.”

Morgus holds up his hand, saying, “Hold on, I want to see the knives before I purchase them.”

After Beraran shows Morgus the knives, Morgus is deeply disappointed, finding several obvious flaws. He sets down the last of the eight knives, saying, “I can’t take these. They’ll damage my hides and parchment too much for the quality I need my parchment to be. No.”

Gesturing wildly and rubbing his hands together, the smith pleads. “Let me try again, but you have to give me more time. I need ten days.”

Morgus frowns, feeling put out, and not wanting to deal with further poor craftsmanship. Thinking, he considers different possibilities. Morgus says, “If I give you another chance and ten more days, then I will offer only fifteen Flairs.”

Beraran extends his arm eagerly. “Yes! Yes!”

Morgus clasps arms with the smith, thinking to himself. ‘Hez said that he is a smith. So, if Bushnel and I can set up a smithy for Hez, then I’ll ask Hez to craft a set as well.’ Walking out of Bladesmith Beraran’s, Morgus walks home with a driven purpose.

…..

Seeking out Ada and Bushnel, he asks the pair, “Would it be feasible and okay to set up a small smithy in the crafts shop for Hez to work?”

Bushnel smiles as he nods, and then replies, “We had a smith before, so we have a smithy set up. We even have supplies in stock from before. Hez can start when you want him to, with Ada and Baron Hessan’s permission and his agreement.”

Looking at her co-partners, Ada says, “I’ll get the baron’s permission tonight, but I agree, as there are a few items I’ve been wanting to be smithed, if Hez can form them. You give us equal time between the items, and I’ll agree, giving him up from his husbandry duty.”

Morgus extends his arm and he clasps with Ada.

…..

Seeking out Hez after evening service in the new chapel, Morgus sits with him in the chapel seats, asking, “How do you feel about giving up being estate husbandry servant and become official estate blacksmith as well as official Cleric of Hessan estates?”

Sitting back, mouth dropping open, brow furrowing, Hez says, “You draw me deeper into Hessan, but a smith or an official Cleric both earn more than a Dyns per day. How much would I earn?”

Morgus smiles as he had asked Bushnel how much the old smith had earned. Morgus has an idea how much priests and clerics in temples and monasteries earn from researching texts in his office. Morgus says, “Tell me how much you’re asking for.”

Hez ponders this, and then he says, “Well, a typical estate smith earns three or four Dyns per day plus ten percent of the value of the goods he produces. A typical Temple cleric earns two to three Dyns per day, plus alms earned. So, I would say at least three or maybe four Dyns per day? Plus, bonuses such as alms and percentage of products?”

Prepared for this conversation, Morgus had numbers in mind already. “I think we will offer four Dyns per day, plus the alms, but with no percentages. This is to keep things simple. But I have to get Larap to approve this.”

The gleam of moisture in Hez’s eyes betrays his excitement as he says, “I accept.”

…..

Sitting in Baron Hessan’s office with Ada and Larap, Morgus continues their conversation. “Thank you, Baron Hessan, for allowing Hez to use the forge and smithy in the crafts shop. But I would like to propose that you hire Hez as official estate smith and cleric.”

Ada silently nods in agreement.

Larap notices her nod, and he starts tapping his desk. “And how much do you propose we pay him?”

Morgus replies, “Let’s keep things simple and pay him a combined wage of four Dyns, plus he keeps his alms.”

Again, straight-faced and emotionless, Ada nods.

Larap is not watching Ada; he is studying Morgus like a Spertan focused on its food. Larap says, “Mage, I like that. You are working out well. You’re doing chamberlain work, even though you’re only my aide.”

Morgus’ face turns a light shade of red, and he replies, “The priests are a simple response to the wights of a few nights ago, as are the safe rooms with the ‘continuous Imvor light’ in them. Remember, the room next to your bedroom is the safe room on the second floor if you need it.”

Larap stands and walking to his bookshelves he removes a large tome, placing it on his desk. He retrieves two larger tomes, adding them to the first. Sitting again, he returns to tapping the desk as he eyes Morgus, before saying, “Read these, as they are treatises on being a chamberlain for an earl or baron. Study them well. Then, when you’re finished, seek me out again. I agree with you on Hez’s pay and titles. I approve the positions and wage for him.”

To be continued …

 

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